Prostate cancer, the most common cancer in men residing in developed countries, and women's use of contraceptive pills have soared over the past 40 years, and the two trends may be linked, a study published in BMJ Open has suggested.
A University of Toronto research team using data from the United Nations World Contraceptive Use report for 2007 and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) pinpointed rates of prostate cancer and deaths from the disease alongside the proportion of women using common methods of contraception, then analyzed the data for nations and continents, looking for a link between contraceptive pill use and illness and death from prostate cancer, ScienceDaily reported about the team's published findings.
The researchers' calculations in this speculative study, designed to show associations and suggest further research angles rather than prove cause and effect, indicated that the use of non-pill contraceptives -- intrauterine devices; vaginal barriers, gels or foams; and condoms -- was not associated with increased prostate cancer risk.
However, high contraceptive pill use in a country, regardless of that nation's wealth, was linked to more prostate cancer cases and deaths, their analysis showed.
Other recent studies have suggested estrogen exposure boosts the risk of prostate cancer, as well as certain cancers of other hormone-sensitive tissues (including endometrial, testicular, breast and thyroid), and scientists studying along these lines have proposed that widespread use and metabolism of contraceptive pills could be raising environmental levels of carcinogenic endocrine disrupting compounds (EDCs), as the relatively stable chemicals in oral contraceptives that leave the body within urine eventually break down and enter drinking water sources and the food chain, according to the team.