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Birth Control Linked to Higher Risk of Brain Tumors

The Short of It

A new study links long term use of birth control to a higher risk of developing a certain kind of brain tumor called a glioma. But the neurologist behind the study says there's not enough evidence to suggest women should stop using oral contraception just yet.

The Lowdown

A study published today in the "British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology" looked at the use of hormone-based oral contraception and cancer rates among women with gliomas between the ages of 15 and 49 in Denmark. Researchers found that women who took birth control at some point in their lives had a 50 percent higher risk of developing the brain tumors. Women who took contraception containing estrogen, progestin or both, doubled their risk. Progestin seemed to be linked to a slightly higher risk of developing the tumors.

While these findings are certainly startling, Dr. David Gaist, a neurologist at Odense University Hospital and the University of Southern Denmark and the lead researcher behind the study, cautions women not to stop taking their birth control pills, noting that gliomas are exceedingly rare.

The Upshot

Previous studies linked hormone-based birth control pills to a lower risk of tumors. So, these findings are definitely generating a lot of discussion. At this point, more research is needed to determine if taking oral contraception is safe. If you're concerned about the type of pill you are taking, talk to your doctor.

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