Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Planned Parenthood Says Don't You Worry Your Pretty Little Contracepting Head About Cancer

If you live in the United States, over $265 million of your country's tax dollars—most of it from the federal government—last year went to an organization that willfully neglects telling women how they may be at an elevated cancer risk.

That organization is Planned Parenthood. Its leaders are well aware that there is substantial evidence that oral contraceptives raise the risk of certain types of cancer. Yet, Planned Parenthood studiously downplays and even denies such risks in its literature about the Pill.

Below is what the National Cancer Institute has to say about oral contraceptives' cancer risks. For all intents and purposes, it is the official position of the U.S. government:

Another page on the NCI's Web site has additional official information.

It's clear that the NCI is tentative about the conclusions of cancer studies—but it nonetheless considers the risk significant enough that the government has a duty to report it.

A search for the terms "contraception" and "cancer" on the NCI's Web site turns up much more data, including an alarming 2003 study by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, which is part of the World Health Organization: "Effect of Oral Contraceptives on Risk of Cervical Cancer in Women With Human Papillomavirus Infection: The IARC Multicentric Case-Control Study."

The study's abstract states:
The data suggest that long-term use of oral contraceptives in women who test positive for cervical HPV DNA increases the risk of cervical carcinoma 4-fold. In the absence of worldwide information about HPV status, extra effort should be made to include long-term users of oral contraceptives in cervical cancer screening programs.
And now for something completely different: Planned Parenthood's Web site, on a page titled "Seven Myths About the Pill":

Planned Parenthood utterly minimizes the increased cancer risk from oral contraceptives, while placing the Pill's possibility of preventing certain types of cancer at center stage. See how the Pill's possible benefits are in large bold type and its possible risks—at least, those risks that Planned Parenthood will admit—are in the small print. It would be laughable were it not so sad.

I wonder how many studies would have to be done showing an increased risk of liver or cervical cancer among Pill users before Planned Parenthood would remove its dismissive line that such risks "have not been proven."

In this light, the aforementioned IARC study showing a four-fold increased risk of cervical carcinoma among women with HPV is particularly tragic. Planned Parenthood is notorious for telling teens it's "safe" to have sex as long as they use condoms. Yet condoms are woefully inadequate as a defense against HPV. So Planned Parenthood is not only contributing to the spread of HPV through its promotion of condoms and its opposition to abstinence education—it's adding to HPV carriers' cancer risk by neglecting to tell them of the Pill's dangers.

Planned Parenthood presents itself as the premier advocate for women's health. Aren't you glad they use their power for good? I'd hate to think of what they'd do if they were an enemy. They might—oh, I don't know—try to protect child rapists or something.

Thanks to Alicia for the tip.



Planned Parenthood promotes the Pill to girls as young as 13 on its Teenwire Web site, which I profiled in Touchstone magazine.