Skip to main content

Oral Contraceptives and the Risk of Cancer

Doctors' Federation Echoes Warnings of World Health Organization

ROME, SEPT. 8, 2005 (Zenit) - The World Federation of Catholic Medical Associations has echoed a warning by the World Health Organization about the increased risk of cancer linked to oral contraceptives.

More than 50 national associations, representing 30,000 Catholic doctors worldwide, make up FIAMC (the group's French acronym).

* * *

The International Agency for Research on Cancer, the Lyon-based cancer research agency of the World Health Organization, in its press release of the 29th of July 2005, informed of the publication of a monograph on the possible carcinogenicity [of] combined estrogen-progestogen oral contraceptives and combined estrogen-progestogen menopausal therapy, based on the conclusions of an international ad hoc working group of 21 scientists from 8 countries.

Previously, combined oral contraceptives had been determined to be carcinogenic to humans, but only primary liver cancer was specifically implicated. The Working Group, after a thorough review of the published scientific evidence, concluded that combined oral contraceptives alter the risk of several common cancers in women.

Estrogen-progestogen oral contraceptives were classified in the Group 1 of carcinogenic agents. This category is used when there is sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in humans.

These conclusions are of enormous public health importance, since it is estimated that worldwide, more than 100 million women -- about 10% of all women of reproductive age -- currently use combined hormonal contraceptives. In addition, there has been widespread use of hormonal menopausal therapy: approximately 20 million women in developed countries.

For all these women, the message is that the use of oral contraceptives increases the risk of breast, cervix and liver cancer. On the contrary, the risks of endometrial and ovarian cancer are decreased in women who used combined oral contraceptives.

Regarding combined estrogen-progestogen menopausal therapy, WHO warns that it increases the risk of breast cancer and endometrial cancer (at least when progestogens are taken fewer than 10 days per month) and that there is not sufficient evidence to conclude that hormonal therapy has a protective effect at any cancer site.

The WHO experts call to a rigorous analysis to demonstrate what can be, at the end, the overall net public health outcome of the use of oral contraceptives. In addition, each woman who uses these products is now invited by WHO to discuss the overall risks and benefits with her doctor, taking into consideration her personal circumstances and family history of cancer and other diseases.

FIAMC invites all health care providers to attentively consider the results of the WHO study, which sheds new light on the prophetical value of Paul VI's "Humanae Vitae" and of John Paul II's "Evangelium Vitae" encyclicals, and encourages Catholic doctors to spread the methods for natural family planning also in Western affluent societies.

Gian Luigi Gigli, MD


Catholic Online  CA, US
Catholic Online - Publisher, 661 869-1000



Contraceptives, Medical, Doctors, Cancer, Woman

Rate This Article

Very Helpful Somewhat Helpful Not Helpful at All

Yes, I am Interested No, I am not Interested

Rate Article


Leave a Comment

Comments submitted must be civil, remain on-topic and not violate any laws including copyright. We reserve the right to delete any comments which are abusive, inappropriate or not constructive to the discussion.

Though we invite robust discussion, we reserve the right to not publish any comment which denigrates the human person, undermines marriage and the family, or advocates for positions which openly oppose the teaching of the Catholic Church.

This is a supervised forum and the Editors of Catholic Online retain the right to direct it.

We also reserve the right to block any commenter for repeated violations. Your email address is required to post, but it will not be published on the site.

We ask that you NOT post your comment more than once. Catholic Online is growing and our ability to review all comments sometimes results in a delay in their publication.

Send me important information from Catholic Online and it's partners. See Sample

Post Comment

Newsletter Sign Up

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Romans 1:16-25
For I see no reason to be ashamed of the gospel; it is God's ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 19:2-3, 4-5
day discourses of it to day, night to night hands on the ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 11:37-41
He had just finished speaking when a Pharisee invited him to ... Read More

Saint of the Day

October 13 Saint of the Day

St. Edward the Confessor
October 13: Edward the Confessor was the son of King Ethelred III and ... Read More