Study cites birth control, cancer link

People's Pharmacy

Health & Fitness

October 26, 2003|By Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon | Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon,King Features Syndicate

The continuing bad news about hormone replacement therapy has me upset. Can you clear up another question for me? The news has focused on the dangers of estrogen plus progestin for older women.

What about the danger to younger women taking the same hormones as birth control pills? Are our daughters at risk from using birth control pills that contain estrogen and progestin?

Most birth control pills are combinations of estrogen and progestin, not that different from postmenopausal hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Doses differ, but some similar concerns about side effects have been raised.

Postmenopausal HRT raises the risk of breast cancer. But the effect of oral contraceptives on this disease remains controversial. A pooled analysis showed that birth control pills increased the risk of breast cancer by 24 percent. A more recent study did not demonstrate this degree of risk.

Birth control pills increase the risk of blood clots, which could lodge in the lungs, heart or brain. This is especially dangerous for women who smoke or have high blood pressure, but nonsmoking healthy women are at very low risk.

Is it true that you should not drink cranberry juice if you are on Coumadin to thin the blood?

British regulatory authorities issued a warning to patients taking warfarin (Coumadin) not to drink cranberry juice. This combination has been associated with excessive bleeding, and one man died from it. Until this interaction has been more thoroughly studied, it would be wise for those on Coumadin to avoid cranberry juice.

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 888 Seventh Ave., New York, NY 10019, or e-mail them via their Web site, www.peoplespharmacy.org.

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