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Media Frantically Spin Study Linking Cancer to Birth Control

birth controlThe media is in the midst of a mad scramble to avoid reporting the truth about a new and highly prestigious scientific study which found that women who use birth control pills are twice as likely as non-users to develop cancer.

According to Meghan McNally, writing for Catholic Vote, the study was conducted by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and was published earlier this month in the The Journal of Cancer Research.  The study took place between 1990 and 2009 and followed 1,102 women aged 20-49 who were using oral contraceptives and were diagnosed with breast. This group's contraception use was then compared to a control group of 21,952 women who were cancer free.

The study found that women taking certain formulations of birth control pills could face a 50 percent or higher increased risk of breast cancer than those not using oral contraceptives. Women using pills containing higher doses of estrogen had a 2.7 fold higher risk of developing cancer. Moderate-dose estrogen pills increased the risk 1.6 fold. Low-dose estrogen pill users showed no increased risk of breast cancer.

While the study found that less than one percent of the women in the control group used high dose pills, 78 percent used moderate-dose estrogen pills and 24 percent used lower dose pills.

In addition, the report found that “Compared with the control group, the women who had used birth control pills in the previous year had a 50 percent higher risk overall than women who had either never used the drugs or had used them in the past."

Previous studies have shown oral contraceptives were likely to contribute to a slightly higher risk of breast cancer, "but those reviews relied on women’s own reports of the types of birth control pills they were taking and did not examine newest generation of formulations," the report explained.

Among other culprits were pills that contain a type of progestin called ethynodiol diacetate and triphasic pills – those that deliver drugs in multiple doses or phases – that contained norethindrone.

For women who aren't sure what type of pill they're using, Dr. Owen Montgomery, a spokesman for the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists advised women to “Talk to your provider about the type of birth control you’re using and make sure it meets your needs in light of this new information.”

The vastly pro-birth control media immediately went into spin mode, with most outlets deliberately skewing facts to make the report's conclusions seem less deadly.

For instance, Salon was quick to quote a misleading report found in The Atlantic which said that the study "found no increased risk of cancer among young women who took low-dose birth control pills, otherwise known as the more commonly prescribed type of oral contraception." It neglected to mention that only 24 percent of the women in the study took low-dose pills with the majority - 78 percent - taking moderate dose pills which come with a 1.6 fold increased risk of cancer.

Newsweek also trumpeted the fact that the greatest increase was in women taking high doses with no risk to those taking low doses, but left out the majority of the women studied who were taking moderate doses. By doing so, they could make the outcome seem less risky for women.

Even politicized the results: "You may have heard or read about this story in the media. In most cases, the reports only talked about birth control pills increasing risk and didn’t explain that it was only high-dose estrogen birth control pills…other types of birth control pills, including low-dose estrogen pills, WERE NOT linked to a higher risk of breast cancer.”

"It is always a bad sign when anyone is so desperate to win an argument that they fear and hide facts," McNally writes. "It is true that the birth control debate has succeeded in dividing people, but new medical research should not be a part of the politicization.

"Everyone stands to gain if women are properly informed of health risks, and everyone should be outraged at the way this study has been handled by many in the media. Evidently, some writers do not trust that their readers can handle all the information, and have deemed themselves the Public’s Filter. Demand corrections from the editors, citing the original study. Let them know that we do not need to be infantilized by our journalists."

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