Cancer is one of the most significant things in today’s society. Everyone has been affected by cancer by either having it or knowing someone who has had it in some form. Cancer has almost become similar to war in the sense that everyone knows someone who has served or is serving in the military. Ovarian cancer is a cancer that has affected someone in my life which is why I choose to focus on it.
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The news story that I focused on was on how birth control pills are most likely leading to the decline of ovarian cancer. Ovarian cancer is a cancer that can be hard to combat due to the fact that unlike other cancers such as breast cancer, the symptoms are hard to detect. Birth control pills provide long term benefits that lower the risk of getting ovarian cancer. This is important to note which countries have the highest usage of birth control. The countries with higher drops in ovarian cancer are the countries that use birth control at a higher percentage. Some such as Japan the culture is one that does not stress birth control as strongly as countries such as the United States and European countries. The organization that reported the decreased statistics was the World Health Organization which is considered one of the leaders of advocacy for general health across the globe.
Further research on the topic has yielded information that backs up the report released by the World Health Organization. According the government’s official government website on cancer, every year that a woman continues to use birth control their risk of getting ovarian cancer goes down. The exact numbers are that after one year of use the risk decreases by 10-12% and continues to go up until after five years the risk decreases by almost 50%.
One of the reasons why researchers believe that oral contraceptives has led to a decreased risk of ovarian cancer is because of the hormones in the pills. Despite this belief, research studies have contradicted each other. The hormones in the pills that are the focus of studies are estrogen and progestin. Two different studies (The Cancer and Hormone Study or CASH and The Steroids Hormones and Reproductions Study or SHARE) has produced two different conclusions on progestin. The first conclusion was that progestin in fact lowered the risk and the other was that it neither lowered the risk or increased it. With all of the gray area around the hormones in oral contraceptives, researchers have further looked at if there was something in an individual’s genes that could affect how the contraceptives affected the cancer rate. Women with mutations on the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene possess a higher risk for ovarian cancer. Once again two studies were done that provided results that did not result in a complete agreement on the topic. One study said that women who had either gene mutation could lower their risk of the cancer while another study produced results that pointed to a conclusion that the contraceptive didn’t lower or heighten the risk. A third study that focused solely on the mutation on the BRCA1 gene concluded that women who had the mutation and took oral contraceptive had half the risk of getting ovarian cancer when compared to women with the mutation who had not taken oral contraceptives.
After reading about all of the statistics that say taking oral contraceptives reduces the risk of ovarian cancer or at the very least doesn’t heighten the risk, I think about the grandmother who I lost to ovarian cancer. Due to her being raised in a different era, I think that is most likely why she didn’t use oral contraceptives. She was raised in a time when it wasn’t fully understood what cancer was and what it could do. She was also raised by devotedly religious parents (her father was a pastor). Some religious people see birth control as an indication that premarital sex is occurring and therefore will not allow their daughters to take oral contraceptives. My grandmother graduated in 1971 but the Supreme Court wouldn’t make birth control legal in all fifty states for another year (1972). Due to the uncertainty surrounded around the pill at the time and if it was safe or if it was effective, it is understandable that she did not use oral contraceptives. While the low rates of birth control usage has caused the death of many elderly loved ones recently, there is also some light to be cast on the fact that there is currently a class action lawsuit against major companies of talcum powder products (It is believed that some cosmetics raise the risks of ovarian cancer due to the talcum powder in the product). After researching the topic more in depth I am unsure of if I would let my daughter use birth control in the future. I hope that there is more studies that are done that can conclusively say that oral contraceptives lower the risk of some cancers. Hopefully the studies happen soon as I am only five to ten years away from the age when I hope to have children (age 25-30). Most likely, I will allow my daughter, her mother, and her doctor to make the decision on if she should take oral contraceptives or not.
To ensure that someone fully understood this topic, I would ask one simple question and that would be, “Have studies provided conclusive results on if oral contraceptives lower the risks of getting oral cancer?”. I would ask this question because throughout the paper and the information I presented, I have stressed that there is no exact conclusion because studies have contradicted each other. The answer to the question would be that studies are stuck between the belief that oral contraceptives lower the risk and the other belief that they do not lower the risk but also do not heighten the risk.
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