According to an investigation published in BMJ Open, the use of the contraceptive pill is linked with an increased risk of prostate cancer worldwide. In developed countries prostate cancer is the most prevalent form of cancer among males and the use of the contraceptive pill has significantly increased over the past 4 decades.

In order to determine prostate cancer rates, deaths as well as the ratio of women using common methods for contraception for 2007, the investigators used data from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and the United Nations World Contraceptive Use report.

The data was then examined for individual nations and continents worldwide in order to determine if there was any association between women using the contraceptive pill and illness and death caused by prostate cancer.

According to their calculations condoms, intrauterine devices, or other vaginal barriers were not linked with an increased risk of men developing prostate cancer.

However, in the population as a whole irrespective of the wealth of a nation, the use of the contraceptive pill in individual countries around the world was substantially linked to both the number of new prostate cancer cases and deaths from prostate cancer.

The researchers stress that their research is speculative and designed in order to instigate additional consideration of the issues. At present definitive conclusions cannot be drawn as their examination does not verify cause and effect.

However they refer to many recent investigations which indicate that oestrogen exposure might increase the risk of men developing prostate cancer.

Increased oestrogen exposure is known to cause cancer, and the researchers believe that widespread use of the contraceptive pill may increase environmental levels of endocrine disruptive compounds (EDCs) – which include by-products of oral contraceptive metabolism.

The researchers explain:

“These don’t break down easily, so can be passed into the urine and end up in the drinking water supply or the food chain, exposing the general population.

Themporal increases in the incidence of certain cancers (breast, endometrial, thyroid, testis and prostate) in hormonally sensitive tissues in many parts of the industrialized world are often cited as evidence that widespread exposure of the general population to EDCs has had adverse impacts on human health.”

Written by Grace Rattue