The Pill: Level I Carcinogen

The Pill was labeled a Level I Carcinogen by the WHO

Would a drug that has the same cancer-causing ability as cigarettes, lead and  barium be prescribed to otherwise healthy women? 

Yes. Every day the birth control pill is prescribed to otherwise healthy women around the world.

In 2011, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IRAC), a working group under the World Health Organization (WHO) made an “overall evaluation” that “oral combined estrogen–progestogen contraceptives are carcinogenic to humans.”

The 2011 report classified the pill as a “Group 1” carcinogen, which means the highest level of evidence of cancer risk.  Other Group 1 carcinogens include asbestos, arsenic, formaldehyde, and plutonium.

“There is sufficient evidence in humans for the carcinogenicity of oral combined estrogen–progestogen contraceptives. Oral combined estrogen–progestogen contraceptives cause cancer of the breast, in-situ and invasive cancer of the uterine cervix, and cancer of the liver,” the 40-page section on oral contraceptive pills of the WHO-IARC report said.

“A large body of evidence was evaluated for several organ sites, among which the Working Group concluded there are increased risks for cancer of the breast in young women among current and recent users only […].” There was also increased risk for “in-situ and invasive cancer of the uterine cervix, and for cancer of the liver in populations that are at low risk for HBV [Hepatitis B virus] infection (this risk is presumably masked by the large risk associated with HBV infection in HBV-endemic populations),” the report said.  “In addition, for cancer of the uterine cervix, the magnitude of the associations is similar for in-situ and invasive disease, and the risks increase with duration of use, and decline after cessation of use,” it added.

While there are risks for breast, uterine cervix, and liver cancers, pills have been considered “protective” against endometrial and ovarian cancers. Does this “protective” benefit against two cancers then negate the significant danger from the other three cancers? The WHO-IARC doesn’t seem to think that is the case. The WHO-IARC’s overall evaluation concluded that the oral combined estrogen–progestogen contraceptives are highly carcinogenic to humans.

These are not new findings by the IRAC.  In fact, they found similar findings in their evaluations of the carcinogenic effect of pills in 1988 and 2005.

Are women being informed of this information prior to making a decision to take the birth control pill?  Is there an alternative for women if they want to avoid a pregnancy?

Yes. There is an alternative that is not only safe, healthy and completely without side effects, but is also 99% effective in avoiding pregnancy.  The Creighton Model FertilityCare System is a natural, simple, easy to use way of avoiding a pregnancy that can be utilized in all stages of a woman’s reproductive life.  The Creighton Model FertilityCare System is the effective family planning method women want while being the safe alternative they need.