Studies have shown that birth control might reduce the risk of ovarian and endometrial cancer. The assertion here is that exposure to estrogen increases the risk of cancer, and that ovulating is physiologically a time of increased estrogen production. Therefore, suppressing ovulation decreases cancer risk. There is another side to consider, however.
It is vital for overall health that women ovulate. We need estrogen and progesterone (our naturally produced forms) for the proper function and maintenance of every body system. Women who don’t ovulate are at risk for a myriad of issues, including mental health, gut health, bone health… you name a body system, there is a negative outcome associated with a lack of natural estrogen and progesterone balance in the body.
It’s important to also ask the question - is a woman’s cycle producing a healthy balance of estrogen and progesterone in the body? If a woman is not ovulating, or hormone production is sub-optimal, this can have negative systemic effects. This balance is what keeps health in check.
“Estrogen drives epithelial proliferation, and progesterone inhibits growth and causes cell differentiation. The importance of progesterone as a key inhibitor of carcinogenesis is reflected by the observation that women who ovulate and produce progesterone almost never get endometrial cancer.” PMID: 21353793
Naturally produced progesterone as a result of ovulation is PROTECTIVE.
Shutting down ovulation for extended periods of time by using oral contraceptives has been shown to increase the risk of breast cancer specifically.
The risk of breast cancer is currently 1 in 8, while the risk of ovarian cancer is approximately 1 in 78 (more info on Cancer.org). Using OCPs to shut down ovulation will increase the risk of the most common cancers.
This is a loaded topic, we know. But in light of the buzz on social media, it's important to ensure full #informedconsent when making decisions that impact health.