Answer Man

Do birth control pills increase the risk of breast cancer?

Is there a link between birth control pills and breast cancer?
Is there a link between birth control pills and breast cancer?

Q: Have medical researchers ever studied the effect of the lifelong use of birth control pills on breast cancer? Usually Mother Nature has her will on those who ignore her. Prior to the late ’60s I don’t think I ever knew anyone who had it.

B.T., of Belleville

A: It may not be nice to fool Mother Nature, as the old Chiffon commercial went, but in this case she apparently sympathizes with her fellow females and looks the other way in most cases.

According to the National Cancer Institute, research in 1996 looked at 50 studies worldwide. It found that women who were current or recent users faced only a slightly elevated risk of breast cancer compared to those who had never used them, regardless of family history or several other variables. Even better, this risk seemed to disappear 10 years after women stopped using them after their childbearing years were over. A more recent study, which followed 116,000 nurses, confirmed the earlier results, noting only a slightly higher risk in those women using what’s called a triphasic pill, in which the dose of hormones changes in three stages over a monthly cycle.

If you want more proof, MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston says long-term use of the pill may elevate the risk for breast and cervical cancer slightly, but this risk disappears five years after usage is stopped. It could be your impression may be partly shaped by the fact that people often avoided mentioning the “C” word decades ago and that intensive screening programs for the disease did not exist. There were an estimated 65,000-plus cases of breast cancer in the late ’60s. Now it is 250,000, partly due to the increased population but also, experts say, because of diet, obesity and increased longevity among other factors.

The House on Thursday passed a new version of a health care bill to replace the Affordable Care Act after the first one failed to get enough Republican support in March. The bill still needs to pass the Senate before becoming law.

Today’s trivia

What and where is the deepest salt lake in the world?

Answer to Sunday’s trivia: You don’t have to travel far to see the nation’s largest federal courthouse. With nearly a million square feet of space, it’s the Thomas F. Eagleton Courthouse at 111 S. 10th St. in St. Louis, which was completed in 2000. According to the Department of Justice, it’s also the second tallest judicial building in the world (557 feet, 29 stories), surpassed only by the Richard J. Daley Center in Chicago. Not counting the Gateway Arch, it’s the third tallest building in St. Louis and fifth tallest in Missouri.