The Birth Control Pill: Fight Cancer and More

By Judith Wolf, MD Surgery Section Chief, Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center Professor, Gynecologic Oncology, Blanton Davis Ovarian Cancer Research Program at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston

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Studies have shown that taking the birth control pill after the age of 40 can reduce your risk of ovarian cancer by half. It can also help you fight colon, uterine and breast cancers.

In general, there is no age limit to birth control since it can be used for so many other reasons than preventing pregnancy. Review the following benefits and talk to your doctor about the possibility of taking the birth control pill to improve your quality of life and as a means of powerful prevention.

Here are the top 10 reasons to take the birth control pill:

10. Regular or No Periods           

Oral contraceptives shut down the intrinsic production of hormones by the ovary. This leads to a very consistent level of hormones. This helps regulate the timing of menstrual periods. Periods occur routinely every 28 days if the pills are taken in a cycle. Or if the pills are taken continuously, periods can be avoided all together, or only occur 3-4 times a year safely.


9. Lighter Periods

Almost universally, women on hormonal contraception have lighter periods than they have naturally. The longer a woman takes the pill, the lighter her period usually becomes. This is related to the relative level of activity of the two female hormones: estrogen and progesterone. Estrogen naturally causes growth of the endometrium, the lining of the uterus. Progesterone causes thinning of the endometrium. In a natural cycle, the estrogen level is higher before ovulation, growing the endometrium and preparing it for implantation of a potential pregnancy. After ovulation, progesterone levels rise to stabilize the growth of the endometrium. Then, if the egg is not fertilized, just before a menstrual period, the levels of both hormones drop and bleeding begins. With the birth control pill, levels of both hormones are constant; the levels of both hormones are consistent, leading to a relatively higher overall level of progesterone and a thinner endometrium. When the hormones are taken away, during the week off, a light period occurs. Also, importantly for preventing pregnancy, ovulation does not occur while on a oral contraceptive.

Judith Wolf, MD

Article written by Judith Wolf, MD
Surgery Section Chief, Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center Professor, Gynecologic Oncology, Blanton Davis Ovarian Cancer Research Program at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston