advertisement



Q & A Library


Print this page | Sign up for free e-bulletins
 | Bookmark This Page

Q
A Contraceptive Danger?

Is it true that taking the birth control pill will cause cervical cancer? Should I stop taking it?

A
Answer (Published 5/13/2003)

Revised 3/21/2010

In 2003 a study from England showed that the longer a woman takes birth control pills, the greater her risk of developing cervical cancer. The researchers reviewed 28 studies and found that compared to women who never took "the Pill," those who were on it for less than five years had a 10 percent increased risk of cervical cancer; those who took it for five to nine years had a 60 percent increased risk and those who took it for 10 years or more had double the risk.

Related Weil Products
Dr. Weil's Vitamin Advisor for Women's Health - Women's health issues such as menopause, PMS and menstruation can often be effectively addressed through lifestyle, diet, and prudent nutritional supplementation. Learn more - get your free, personalized vitamin recommendation today, at Dr. Weil's Vitamin Advisor.

Even after accounting for such risk factors as the number of sexual partners the women had, their smoking history (cigarettes raise the risk) and infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV), believed to be the major cause of cervical cancer, the researchers found that the length of time on the Pill correlated with an increased risk of cervical cancer.

However, even double the risk isn't as scary as it sounds since cervical cancer isn't very common these days. In the UK only 3,200 cases occur annually. In the U.S., some 12,000 women develop cervical cancer every year, most of whom have not been screened as recommended with regular Pap tests.

The study doesn't reveal what it is about the Pill that could be responsible for the increased risk, but we do know that the risk returns to normal 10 years after a woman stops taking the Pill. We also know that long-term use of birth control pills protects against ovarian cancer, a far worse and much less treatable disease. Fortunately, Pap smears can detect early indications of cervical cancer making it possible to prevent progression to the disease itself. In addition, in 2006 the FDA approved the vaccine Gardisil, which protects against the two strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV), which are responsible for 70 percent of all cases of cervical cancer.

I wouldn't base a decision on whether or not to continue taking the Pill solely on the results of the British study. That's a decision you should make after consultation with your physician, taking into consideration your lifestyle and personal and family health history. But I would also encourage you to learn about non-pharmacological approaches to birth-control. If you can find a method that works for you, it might be safer than long-term use of the Pill.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved Creative Commons Copyright Notice
A portion of the original material created by Weil Lifestyle, LLC on DrWeil.com (specifically, all question and answer-type articles in the Dr. Weil Q&A Library) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

The Weil Vitamin Advisor
Get your FREE personalized vitamin recommendation & supplement plan today!

Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging
Your Online Guide to the Anti-Inflammatory Diet. Start eating for your health - begin your free trial now.

Dr. Weil's Spontaneous Happiness
Achieve emotional well-being
in just eight weeks!
Start your 10-day free trial now!

Vitamin Library
Supplement your knowledge with Dr. Weil's essential vitamin facts. Learn why they are necessary and more.

Dr. Weil's Optimum Health Plan
Your 8-week plan to wellness.
Begin your journey today!
 

Dr. Weil's Head-to-Toe
Wellness Guide

Your guide to natural health.
Use the Wellness Guide today!

Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Diet Food Pyramid
Our interactive tool can help improve overall health through diet.

Condition Care Guide
Learn about health conditions from acne to vertigo, and Dr. Weil's view of the best treatment options for each.

Healthy Recipes
Discover a treasure trove of healthy, healing foods and creative, delicious ways to prepare them.

Q&A Library
Over 2,000 questions from you
and their corresponding answers
from Dr. Weil.

 
Copyright © 2014 Weil Lifestyle, LLC
Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this web site for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment.

Ad Choice
Advertising Notice

This Site and third parties who place advertisements on this Site may collect and use information about your visits to this Site and other websites in order to provide advertisements about goods and services of interest to you. If you would like to obtain more information about these advertising practices and to make choices about online behavioral advertising, please click here