Birth Control Pills Do More Than Just Prevent Pregnancy — They May Prevent Cancer

The oral contraceptive pill was designed to prevent unwanted pregnancies. And it’s up to 99.9% effective, which shows the pill is great at its job. Surprisingly, though, that’s not its only benefit. Over the years, doctors have discovered that the pill actually has some amazing benefits for your body.

birth control pills

Hormonal birth control pills have many benefits. | AntonioGuillem/Getty Images

It can clear up acne

Acne in young women is often the result of hormones. Birth control pills work by giving your body a constant low dose of hormones, which prevents ovulation (a woman cannot get pregnant if she doesn’t ovulate). Sometimes, a woman’s androgen receptors, which help control hormones, are very sensitive, which triggers the production of excess oils. Oils clog the skin, which leads to breakouts. But when a woman takes low-dose hormone birth control, those hormones become regulated, which prevents the oil from building up. Women are often prescribed birth control solely for acne problems.

It makes periods less painful

Birth control pills usually make periods lighter with fewer side effects. Since they regulate the hormones in the body, the time of the month is consistent, and there are fewer side effects from periods. When you ovulate, you typically cramp as a result. But since birth control pills prevent ovulation, you don’t experience those painful cramps, making the period much more tolerable. However, you may also get cramps from the uterus “pushing out” the lining, so there is a chance your period won’t be pain free, which is important to discuss with your doctor if you’re considering getting on the pill to manage your periods.

It may reduce your risk of anemia

Anemia is a common condition in which the blood has too few healthy red blood cells and leads to reduced oxygen throughout the body. It affects millions of Americans, but women on hormonal birth control pills may be at a lower risk. Anemia is often the result of an iron deficiency, and since you’re essentially losing less blood on the pill, you’re less likely to have that iron deficiency. Plus, most packs of birth control pills contain iron pills, which you take during your period to ensure your iron levels are where they should be. Your doctor may recommend birth control pills if you’re at risk of developing iron-deficiency anemia.

It may prevent certain cancers

Studies have shown oral contraceptives may prevent certain cancers. Jama Oncology, a medical journal focused on cancer, published a study that found hormonal birth control pills may prevent both ovarian and endometrial cancers. The regulated hormones help to prevent the development of these cancers, so women who are at higher risk may be prescribed a hormonal birth control pill to lower that risk. Colorectal cancer has also shown signs of reduction in women taking hormonal birth control pills

But not all cancers are created equal

While the pill has proven in several studies to reduce multiple types of cancer, there are some cancers that are more likely to show up in women taking the pill. Breast cancer and cervical cancer risks are greater in women taking the pill, so it’s important to talk to your doctor about your family history. Plus, getting the Gardasil vaccination to prevent against cervical cancer will greatly reduce your risk if you’re taking the pill.

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