Where’s the Beef Over the Pill?

Bacon had a bad week.

Last week it was announced that processed meats are a Class 1 carcinogen, and boy, I sure didn’t miss the news. It seemed to be a leading story in the news cycle for a couple of days. Maybe it was such big news because the thought of giving up bacon and our other beloved processed meats is practically unthinkable.

As someone who works trying to raise awareness of NFP, I wonder where all the same ruckus was several years ago when the birth control pill was declared carcinogenic.

But let’s unpack this a bit. Class 1 carcinogens are things known to cause human cancers from studies in humans, not just lab rats. What the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) found by careful review of the published medical and scientific evidence is that folks who eat a lot of processed meat have about a 17-18% increased risk of developing colorectal cancer. The scientists tell us for every 50 grams per day we eat, we have a 17-18% increase in risk of developing cancer relative to folks who eat less per day. This equates to about 2 slices of bacon consumed every day of every year until you get cancer or die from some other problem. No doubt there are people who consume enough of these meats for long enough to be adding measurable risk to their lives. For most, “all things in moderation” would seem a reasonable conclusion.

Rewind to 2005 when this same scientific working group reviewed the evidence for cancer from use of contraceptives. At that time the IARC declared combined estrogen-progestin contraceptives a Class 1 carcinogen and all we heard were the crickets chirping.

In the 10 years since, nothing has changed these facts, but when do you ever hear this?? I doubt the Gates Foundation in their quest to have the entire developing world on contraception spends a lot of time giving these unsuspecting women the facts.

The risk of breast cancer developing in women using combined contraceptives is increased 20-40% depending on the age and circumstances of the studied population. This risk is present when the drugs are taken in the normal daily regimen; nothing beyond the government-approved daily doses. Combined pills also increase the risk of cervical and certain liver cancers.

Why isn’t this public knowledge? Why do we pause before ordering that bacon cheeseburger, but don’t think twice when we pop our daily birth control pill? It’s because women don’t hear of the connection between their pills and cancer from their doctors, their pharmacists, or their news outlets.

We just spent another October in which the U.S. went all pink from the efforts of good-minded people honestly and earnestly trying to make a difference to get rid of breast cancer or help those suffering with it. But how many are standing up and just saying stop? Stop acting like these pills are the only way to plan our families when completely safe alternatives are available!

When we go ballistic over news that a lifetime of devouring bacon might make us a little more likely to get cancer, while ignoring that millions of women at far greater risk of getting breast cancer just to keep sex convenient, you have to admit something is wrong.

— Mike Manhart, PhD
Executive Director