One can find ads for every type of contraception blasted through nearly every media source—on the radio, on television, and all over the internet. Inundated, ad nauseam, by these seemingly innocuous, happy-go-lucky ads it is rare that the average consumer hears about the detrimental side-effects of these drugs and devices that, unfortunately, are very real.
Contraception, whether device or drug, carries with its use a sometimes noxious bite. Quite a number of people have found out the hard way, evidenced by various lawsuits that have been filed against big pharmaceutical companies. Bayer Pharmaceuticals has been dealing with over 10,000 lawsuits from consumers who experienced severe health problems as a consequence of taking such branded drugs as Ocella, Yaz, and Yasmin (1). These products have allegedly caused severe and even fatal blood-clotting, among its consumers (2). Additionally, The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) published a meta-analysis in 2007, revealing “that, overall, the risk of…cervical cancer increased with increasing duration of use of oral contraceptives” (3). Via the IARC, the World Health Organization released a more recent evaluation of the health side-effects of birth control drugs, saying that oral contraceptives can cause cancers of the breast, the uterine cervix, and the liver (4).
The medical, cultural, and environmental ramifications of hormonal contraception for family planning/therapy will be explored by the newest MedSFLA speaker this fall—Dr. Diana West. Following her completion of a PhD in chemistry at the University of Illinois, she engaged in a breast cancer research fellowship at Northwestern University. She currently serves as a Postdoctoral Researcher at The University of Chicago, where her work focuses on novel breast and prostate cancer therapies.
Dr. West has also delved extensively into the primary scientific literature regarding the consequences of hormone contraceptives on human health, relationships, and the environment. This project has lead to a collaboration with Dr. Marguerite Duane (and a team of health professionals) to create an educational website to teach physicians various methods of natural scientifically-based fertility awareness options to expand women’s family planning choices: http://www.factsaboutfertility.org.
In her presentation, “The Pill and Pollution: How birth control affects women and men,” Dr. West will present the latest scientific findings surrounding hormonal contraceptives for human and environmental health. Furthermore, as a potential alternative to hormonal contraceptives, she will discuss scientifically-based fertility awareness methods as effective reproductive options for women.
Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences will be hosting Dr. West this December. If you’re intrigued about NFP or the connection between hormonal contraception and pollution, you have a chance to have her speak at your medical college or university!
3. IARC Monographs, Pharmaceuticals, 100 A. COMBINED ESTROGEN–PROGESTOGEN CONTRACEPTIVES, p. 292. (http://monographs.iarc.fr/ENG/Monographs/vol100A/mono100A-19.pdf)
4. Ibid. p. 311