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Contraception has benefits and risks -- Martin Knapp-Cordes

April 4, 2019

In Tuesday’s letter to the editor “ Taxes shouldn’t fund family planning,” the author claimed that the International Agency for Research on Cancer, an arm of the World Health Organization, has branded the birth control pill a Group I carcinogen.

I did some investigation and discovered that this is not the whole story. His statement is highly inflammatory and based on little understanding of the issue. The World Health Organization did issue a statement in 2005 about contraceptive cancer risks. But it pertained only to the simultaneous use of hormonal contraceptives and hormonal menopausal treatment. The best current information about risks can be found online at the National Cancer Institute by searching for “oral contraceptives and cancer risk.”

The latest assessment, made in February 2018, is based on observational studies. It states that the risks of breast and cervical cancers are increased, whereas the risks of endometrial, ovarian and colorectal cancers are reduced. I did not find the detailed risks alarming, but your reading may be different.

It is critical that contraceptives be readily available along with a honest discussion of the risks, because the alternative is many more unwanted pregnancies.

Martin Knapp-Cordes, Madison

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