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"The Pill may lower cancer risk"

Globe and Mail

Source: Globe and Mail

Published: 25 Jan 2022

Category: Pharmaceutical

Rating: (3½ stars)

what they said (Hover the mouse cursor over underlined words for more info)

The longer a woman takes birth-control pills, the lower her risk of developing ovarian cancer, according to a new study.
The research, published in today's edition of the medical journal The Lancet, shows that women who take oral contraceptives for a decade can slash their cancer risk by more than one-third.
By comparison, taking the Pill for up to four years reduces the risk of ovarian cancer by about 22 per cent....

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how did it rate? (more information)

Criteria Rating
Total Score 7 of 10
Availability of Treatment Satisfactory (?)
Novelty of Treatment Satisfactory (?)
Disease Mongering Satisfactory (?)
Treatment Options Not Satisfactory (?)
Costs of Treatment Not Satisfactory (?)
Evidence Satisfactory (?)
Quantification of Benefits of Treatment Satisfactory (?)
Harms of Treatment Satisfactory (?)
Sources of Information Satisfactory (?)
Relies on Press Release Not Applicable
Quantification of Harms of Treatment Not Satisfactory (?)

what we said (Hover the mouse cursor over underlined words for more info)

This story is about the potential for birth control pills to lower ovarian cancer risk. The evidence is well-explained, with the benefits presented in relative and absolute terms. It would have been useful to have had the harm data (the potential for adverse effects) also quantified as this information is needed for people to be able to compare benefits vs. harm. Total serious adverse event data is usually compiled in meta-analyses like this and would have been worthy of a mention in the media report. It is one thing to take the pill to reduce the risk of one cancer, it is another if the pill also causes other, perhaps equally serious diseases. As is common in stories like this the reader may be left with a false sense of optimism unless they read the full story which includes appropriate caveats (despite this study it remains 'unclear' whether women should take oral contraceptives specifically to reduce their risk of ovarian cancer).

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