Oral contraceptives may increase risk for developing gliomas

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According to a new study published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, researchers have found that certain forms of birth control may increase the risk for developing a glioma, a rare brain cancer.

For the study, researchers analyzed data from Denmark's national registries of health records, cancer cases, and prescriptions in order to identify women aged 15 to 49 years diagnosed with glioma and which women were prescribed contraceptives.

Results showed that women who had used hormonal contraceptives (estrogen, progestin, or both) had a 50% increased risk for developing gliomas compared with those who did not take hormonal contraceptives. In addition, women who used birth control for greater than 5 years had a nearly 200% increased risk for developing gliomas.

Women taking progestin-only contraceptives were at a slightly higher risk for developing the brain cancer than those who took estrogen only or both. The researchers note that although the risk is doubled, the cancer is still rare. Specifically, among Danish women aged 15 to 49 years, only five in 100,000 will develop a glioma.

The results of the study were surprising as previous studies have found that estrogen and progestin may decrease the risk of gliomas, but particularly in post-menopausal women.

Oral contraceptives may increase risk for developing gliomas
Certain forms of birth control may increase the risk for developing a glioma, a rare brain cancer.
Taking any drug is a matter of weighing the benefits and risks, and when it comes to birth control, women may now have one more factor to consider. David Gaist, a neurologist at Odense University Hospital and the University of Southern Denmark, and his colleagues found that women taking hormonal contraceptives — those containing estrogen, progestin or a combination of both — showed higher rates of a rare brain tumor known as glioma.
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