Can birth control pills help in the fight against cancer?


by Brandy Aguilar, Special projects

Posted on March 8, 2012 at 2:15 PM

Updated Thursday, Mar 8 at 2:59 PM

PHOENIX -- It's a controversial prescription that many women take, but it turns out there's some new insight into what it can actually do.

“Lots of studies have been done and show women on the pill, off the pill, it does not make women gain weight,” said Dr. Judith Wolf with Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center.

Wolf is on a mission to spread the truth about birth control pills. This week the Valley OB/GYN will be sharing her message to viewers all over the country on "The Dr. Oz Show."

“Women are afraid it's going to cause cancer,” Wolf said.

But according to Wolf, birth control pills can fight certain types of cancer.
"Studies have shown multiple times women who do take the birth control pill for at least five years have a lifetime 50 percent reduction in the risk of getting ovarian cancer,” Wolf said.

Wolf said there are a few different reasons.

“One of the hypotheses of what causes ovarian cancer is that when the egg is delivered from the ovary and ruptures out of the ovary, it actually tears the surface of the ovary,” Wolf said “The surface of the ovary has to repair itself, so cells have to multiple and divide."

"Every time those cells have to divide, you increase the risk of some abnormality," she continued. “So when you're on the birth control pill, there is no ovulation, thus no tears in the lining of the ovary."

The second reason why it may be able to decrease the risk of ovarian cancer.

"If you have a relatively higher level of progesterone, it's protective against getting ovarian cancer and when you’re on the birth control, you do have that," Wolf said.

Wolf also said that birth control pills can reduce the risk of colon and uterine cancer. Some other benefits include lighter periods, less cramping and acne fighter.

“Adult acne is caused a lot by hormone fluctuations and changes,” Wolf said. “And, again, the regulation and types of hormones that are in the birth control pills, the formulation of the estrogen and progesterone, will often calm down adult acne.”

While the pill does come with some risk such as blood clots.

“All I can do as a doctor with a patient is try to give them all the information,” Wolf said. "And answer all of their questions and try to help them make the decision that's best for them.”

Wolf will be on "The Dr. Oz Show" this Friday.

For more information, visit