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Has the Pill Led to an Increase in Prostate Cancer?


That is the possibility raised in a new paper published in BMJ Open and summarized in Science Daily. The presumptive culprit would be environmental estrogen exposure. Add this to the bulging files of Unintended Consequences of Birth Technology (the theme of a recent podcast called “Misadventures in Baby-Making.”) First, from the paper:

Prostate cancer (PCa) is the most common male malignancy in the Western world, and risk factors associated with this cancer remain ill defined.1 The only acknowledged risk factors thus far are: age, ethnicity and family history.1 Several studies have suggested that oestrogen exposure may increase the risk of prostate cancer,2–4 while other studies have not found an association.5 6

The use of oral contraceptives (OCs) has exploded over the past 40 years and has had a patchy uptake in terms of global utilisation. Emerging literature suggests that OC use may be associated with a variety of medical conditions among consumers, such as atheroembolic disease and even breast cancer.7–10 Aside from disease risk among actual drug consumers, there is also increasing concern about environmental contamination by endocrine disruptive compounds (EDCs) and their association with diseases of increasing incidence such as breast cancer (men and women), early onset puberty and testicular cancer. EDCs include a variety of compounds used in commercial applications, such as detergents, pesticides, cosmetics and building materials.11 It is plausible that by-products of OC metabolism could be passed via urine into the environment in general or drinking water, thus exposing the population at large.

The researchers, David Margel and Neil Fleshner, found a significant correlation between the use of oral contraceptives and mortality from prostate cancer. However, as noted in Science Daily:

The authors emphasise that their research is speculative and designed to prompt further consideration of the issues. As such, their analysis does not confirm cause and effect, and therefore definitive conclusions cannot be drawn, as yet.

(HT: Eric M. Jones)