TIME Cancer

The Pill Has Prevented 200,000 Cases of Cancer, Study Says

TIME.com stock photos Birth Control Pills
Elizabeth Renstrom for TIME

The effect continued even when women stopped taking the pill

Oral contraceptives have prevented 200,000 cases of endometrial cancer in the last decade, according to new research published Tuesday.

In the new study, published in the journal The Lancet Oncology, researchers looked at data from 27,276 women with endometrial (uterine) cancer and 115,743 women without it from 36 different studies. They estimate in their findings that 400,000 cases of endometrial cancer have been prevented due to women taking oral contraceptives in the past 50 years, and 200,000 of these prevented cases are from the last 10 years.

The study shows that every five years of using oral contraceptives lowers the risk of endometrial cancer by around a quarter. Hormone doses in oral contraceptives have dropped through the years, but the new findings suggest that the amount of hormones in lower dose pills used today still offer a protective benefit.

Since oral contraceptives make the body think its pregnant, the amount of natural estrogen circulating in the body drops and lowers the risk of developing endometrial cancer.

The study also found that the longer the women used oral contraceptives, the greater their risk declined. Interestingly, the risk reduction continued for over 30 years after the women stopped using oral contraceptives, suggesting the protective effect is prolonged.

TIME 2016 Election

Chris Christie Has Used Birth Control—’And Not Just the Rhythm Method’

Chris Christie, Governor of New Jersey and candidate in the Republicans' presidential candidates race, talks with a voter at The Puritan Backroom in Manchester, N.H. on Aug. 3, 2015.
CJ Gunther—EPA Chris Christie, Governor of New Jersey and candidate in the Republicans' presidential candidates race, talks with a voter at The Puritan Backroom in Manchester, N.H. on Aug. 3, 2015.

The governor doesn't think using birth control makes him "an awful Catholic"

Gov. Chris Christie announced he has used birth control at a town hall meeting Tuesday morning, and he made sure to leave little room for ambiguity.

“I’m a Catholic, but I’ve used birth control—and not just the rhythm method, ok?” the Republican presidential candidate admitted to a crowd at a Manchester, N.H. restaurant.

Christie made it clear that he has struggled with his faith’s doctrine on sex and family, which holds that contraceptives “work against the natural gift of fertility.”

“My church has a teaching against birth control,” said the governor. “Does that make me an awful Catholic, because I believe and practiced that function during part of my life? I don’t think so.”

Watch the full video below.

TIME Sex/Relationships

Fewer Teens Are Having Sex Than in the Past

TIME.com stock photos Condoms Sex
Elizabeth Renstrom for TIME

New data shows the number of teenagers who have sex continues to drop

The number of teenagers who have had sex has significantly dropped over the last quarter century, new federal data shows.

The number of teens from ages 15 to 19 who have had sex dropped 14% for females and 22% for males over the past 25 years, revealed new data published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics. According to the new report, which uses national survey data from 2011-2013, 44% of female teens reported having sex at least one time and 47% of men reported the same.

MORE: The Teen Birth Rate Is Now At an All-Time Low

The report shows that in the early teenage years, male teens were more likely than female teens to report having had sex, but by age 17, the rates were similar. Most teenagers said they used contraceptives. From 2011-2013, 79% of females and 84% of males said they used a contraceptive when they had sex for the first time and condoms were used most often. The data also shows that 60% of female teens said they had used withdrawal as a contraceptive method and 54% had used the pill. The CDC also reports that teenage women who did not use a contraceptive during their first sexual intercourse were twice as likely to become teen mothers compared to their peers who did use birth control.

Over the last 10 years of available data, the number of teenage girls who have used emergency contraception has also increased from 8% in 2002 to 22% in 2011–2013.

MORE: U.S. Teen Trends In Sex, Bullying, Booze and More

The new findings fall in line with other recent federal data showing the U.S. teen pregnancy and birth rate is on the decline, possibly due to a drop in sexual activity and an increased use of contraceptives. Why teenagers are reporting less sexual activity is not fully understood, but public health experts have credited the increase in contraceptive use to more education and lower costs for methods thanks to the Affordable Care Act. Still, the CDC notes in the new report that America’s rates remain higher than other developed countries.

TIME health

One Factor That Kept the Women of 1960 Away From Birth Control Pills: Cost

Bottle of Enovid tabs 10mg, early 1960s. Front three quarter view. Graduated grey background.
David Exton—SSPL via Getty Images Bottle of Enovid tabs 10mg, early 1960s.

Fifty-five years ago, "the Pill" hit the market

The road to safe and effective birth control in the U.S. was long and winding — with more than a few bumps along the way. But 55 years ago today, June 23, 1960, marks the day when the birth control pill was first available for purchase in the U.S. for contraceptive purposes.

Previously, the Food and Drug Administration had approved hormone pills to treat menstrual disorders, such as irregular periods or PMS. But in May of 1960, the FDA had cleared Enovid, the trade name of an oral contraceptive by G.D. Searle and Company, and by June 23, “the Pill” — as oral contraceptives would soon be commonly known — was on the market.

And it was exactly what women had been waiting for. Because of the country’s squeamishness over birth control — anti-obscenity laws had prohibited even doctors from discussing contraceptives in the early 20th century — women had long been resorting to other, often unreliable and sometimes dangerous, methods to prevent pregnancy. Access to a dependable, safe form of birth control offered women a freedom that was previously unknown.

But there was initially one major downside to Enovid — the price. Taking stock of the Pill’s success, a little more than six months after it hit the market, TIME noted in February 1961 that:

Enovid proved to have remarkably few undesirable side effects: in her first month or two on the pills, a woman may be nauseated, and may gain weight. The main trouble with Enovid, as with all progestins, was cost. The pills were priced to retail at 50 cents or 55 cents each, and one a day for 20 days meant $10 or $11 a month. Last week Searle cut it price by 30%, which should bring the retail price down to $7 or $8… And Searle promptly cut this a further 50% by convincing the FDA that five milligrams will inhibit ovulation just as well as ten, making the net cost to the consumer $3.50 to $4 a month.

In spite of the initial cost of the Pill, 400,000 women saw their doctors about getting a prescription that first year — even though $10 in 1960 was the equivalent, with inflation, of nearly $80 today. By 1963, after the price had dropped, the number of women had risen to 2.3 million.

Just three years later, in 1966, TIME summed up just how quickly and thoroughly American women had taken to oral contraceptives, writing, “No previous medical phenomenon has ever quite matched the headlong U.S. rush to use the oral contraceptives now universally known as ‘the pills.’”

TIME Birth Control

Quiz: How Effective Is Your Birth Control?

IUD birthcontrol
Photo Illustration by Mia Tramz for TIME; Corbis

Test your contraceptive IQ

Teen birth and pregnancy rates are at a record low, possibly due to teens use of better birth control methods. Do you know how effective your birth control is?

Birth control methods vary widely in terms of effectiveness and duration of use. People choose their methods for a wide variety of reasons, but recent data shows that when women are informed and counseled about different forms of contraceptives, they tend to opt for the most effective types and unintended pregnancies drop. Typical use failure rates are used to determine effectiveness, and show the rate the method fails during “typical use,” which accounts of inconsistent or incorrect use of the method (think missing a pill or a broken condom).

Guess the typical use failure rates of the birth control options below:

TIME Research

The Teen Birth Rate Is Now At an All-Time Low

TIME.com stock photos Condoms Sex
Elizabeth Renstrom for TIME

Here's what's driving the drop in teen parenting

The teen birth rate has hit a new record low, according to federal data released on Wednesday.

Researchers from the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics looked at birth certificates for the year 2014 from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories and found that the teen birth rate is the lowest ever recorded. And, for the first time in seven years, the general fertility rate in the U.S. increased.

Among teens from ages 15 to 19, the birth rate dropped 9% in 2014 to 24.2 births per 1,000 women. Since 1991, the researchers report that the birth rate for this age group has dropped 61%.

MORE: The Best Form of Birth Control

Overall, the number of U.S. births in 2014 increased 1% from the year prior. The number of women in their twenties having babies dropped 2% to a record low, while the number of women in their thirties and forties giving birth rose.

The national teen pregnancy rate has also been on a record decline. Data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has shown pregnancy rates among teenagers have been consistently dropping for the last two decades, and there was a 10% drop in a year from 2012 to 2013.

Some data suggests that teens are less sexually active than the past, and those that are having sex are using birth control more often. Some experts speculate that increased access to affordable birth control and better sex education have also played a role.

MORE: The Trouble With Sex Ed in the Internet Age

Teens may also be using better, more effective contraceptives, with an increasing (though still low) number of young people from ages 15 to 19 using long-acting reversible contraceptive methods like the IUD or implant. There’s also been a notable increase in the use of the birth control pill among the age group, as well as usage of more than one method.

Birth control methods like the IUD and implant are significantly more effective than other methods, including the pill and condom. The failure rate for the IUD is as low as 0.2% while the pill is 9% and the condom is 18%. New data released on Tuesday revealed that when women are counseled about all of their options, they are more likely to choose the most effective methods, and that can lead to notable declines in unintended pregnancies.

Some indirect factors could also be influencing the latest birth statistics, suggest researchers at the Guttmacher Institute. Women, for instance, are both getting married and having children later in life.

Though teen births are decreasing, the U.S. still has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the developed world.

TIME Research

Birth-Control Counseling Cuts Pregnancy Nearly in Half

TIME.com stock photos Birth Control Pills
Elizabeth Renstrom for TIME

It also makes women more likely to choose the most effective contraceptives

Counseling women on the best forms of birth control cuts the rate of unintended pregnancy, according to a new study.

Not all birth control options are equally effective. The intrauterine device (IUD) and implant—referred to as long acting reversible contraception (LARC)—are more effective than the pill or condom. The failure rate for the IUD is as low as 0.2%; for the pill, that rate is 9%. (It’s even higher for a condom, at 18%.) Yet only 7.2% of the population uses LARC.

That number may increase with better counseling, suggests the new study published in the journal The Lancet. Researchers found that when women are counseled about the effectiveness for various forms, they choose LARC more often and have fewer unintended pregnancies.

The researchers looked at 40 Planned Parenthood clinics in the United States and assigned 20 of the clinics to receive training on counseling and insertion for IUDs and implants. The other 20 offered standard care. More than 1,500 women ages 18 to 25 who visited the clinics—and who didn’t want to get pregnant in the next year—were enrolled in the study.

After following them for a year, the researchers found that the women who went to a clinic with LARC training were more likely to report getting counseling compared to the women in the control group. They were also more likely to choose an IUD or implant and were less likely to get pregnant during the study period. The rate of unintended pregnancy for the women in the intervention group was nearly half that of the control group (8 women out of 100 in the intervention group, compared to 15 per 100 women in the control group).

The study authors conclude that counseling may strengthen a woman’s perception of her control over her pregnancy risk, and she therefore may choose more effective contraceptives.

“Unintended pregnancy has been one of those basic health issues that has persisted as a stubborn problem in the U.S., especially among 18-25 year olds,” says study author Cynthia Harper, a professor of obstetrics, gynecology & reproductive sciences at the UCSF Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health. “We’re excited to be able to offer providers an intervention that can help them educate women on the range of FDA-approved contraceptives and to be able to offer the methods with highest efficacy—IUDs and the transdermal implant—along with other more commonly used methods such as the pill.”

Counseling like the kind in the study could take place in places beyond Planned Parenthood clinics, Harper says. “The counseling could be brought to health centers at schools,” she says. “We are also beginning to help develop curriculums for high school students to learn about all of the methods of birth control, including IUDs and implants, so they have the knowledge they need when the time comes for them to make their own birth control choices.”

Read Next: The Best Form of Birth Control

TIME Research

U.S. Teen Trends In Sex, Bullying, Booze and More

Teenager Smoking Cigarette Boys
Getty Images

Good news: Today's teens experience notably low rates of bullying, drinking, pregnancy and unprotected sex

The latest statistics on teenagers paint a rosy portrait of American teens. They’re drinking, smoking and bullying less than they used to, and fewer are getting pregnant.

“Adolescence is an inherently risky time,” says Dr. Stephanie Zaza, the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) division of adolescent and school health. “They are stretching their wings. We can’t eliminate all risk, but we are seeing overall good trends in all areas.”

Here’s a snapshot on teen behavior, based on recent reports:

Bullying

Recent data from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics showed bullying at school was on the decline. Bullying among kids ages 12 to 18 dropped to 22% in 2013. The rate is lower than the 28-32% that was reported in all other survey years since 2005. Even cyberbullying—the use of electronic services to harass someone—has dropped. Only 6.9% of students reported being cyberbullied in 2013 compared to 9% in 2011.

Zaza adds that bullying has often targeted LGBTQ youth, and with increasing acceptance and major policy changes regarding same-sex marriage in the news, social norms regarding sexuality may be changing too, and that may contribute to less fighting.

Smoking

Teens are smoking less, too. In the last CDC National Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), which analyzes health risk behaviors among high school students, revealed that the high school smoking rate had dropped to 15.7%, the lowest recorded level since the survey started in 1991. It meant that the CDC had met its goal of lowering the adolescent smoking rate to under 16% by 2020, several years early.

Zaza says what’s responsible is a combination of widespread public health initiatives and changing social norms. “When you look at excise taxes, smoking bans, quit lines, campaigns and innovations in therapies, you see this amazing trend in adult and youth tobacco use,” says Zaza. “With all of those changes came a really big change in the social norms around smoking.”

Still, data from the CDC suggests that while high schools are smoking fewer cigarettes, e-cigarette use tripled among middle and high schoolers in just one year.

Drinking

The number of students who drink alcohol also dropped. Though it was still high at 35%, teens reported less physical fighting in school, and most students who were sexually active used condoms.

Sex and Babies

National teen pregnancy rates are also at a record low, with recent data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) showing a continuous drop over the last 20 years, with a 10% decline just between 2012 and 2013. It’s unclear what is driving the decrease, but it appears teenagers are less sexually active than they have been in the past, and teens that are sexually active report using some form of birth control.

“There’s no doubt birth control and sex education are the most important factors in reducing unintended teen pregnancy,” Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood said in an email. “Teens are increasingly using IUDs and implants, which are the most reliable methods of birth control.”

America’s teen pregnancy rate is at a record low, but it’s still higher than many developing countries.

Texting While Driving etc.

Zaza says she’s worried about the number of teens who text and drive—41%—as well as the nearly 18% of teens who report using prescription drugs without a prescription.

“I worry about these numbers,” says Zaza, adding that there’s still room for improvement.

TIME Research

How to Know If Your Birth Control Pill Is a Risk for Blood Clots

TIME.com stock photos Birth Control Pills
Elizabeth Renstrom for TIME

See which brands contain ingredients that may be more harmful than not

It’s been known for quite some time that the Pill may increase a woman’s risk for blood clots, but the risk is thought to be low. As TIME reported on Tuesday, the study showed that women on the Pill had around a three times higher risk of blood clots compared to women who weren’t using the oral contraceptives. The risk appeared to be greater for women taking newer versions of the hormone progestogen, including drospirenone, desogestrel, gestodene and cyproterone. Older versions of the hormone, including levonorgestrel and norethisterone, had better results. You can read more here about why these versions may have a higher risk.

So, how do you know if your birth control pills contain ingredients that might be more harmful than not? Drospirenone and desogestrel are both approved for use in the U.S., and can be used in combination with other ingredients. We broke down which birth control brands contain them, according to approval data from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Gestodene and cyproterone are currently not approved for use in contraceptives in the states. There may also be other brands of the contraceptives that contain these ingredients available in other countries.

Drospirenone
Angeliq
Beyaz
Loryna
Nikki
Safyral
Syeda
Yaela
Yasmin
Yaz

Desogestrel
Cyclessa
Desogen
Emoquette
Enskyce
Kariva
Kimidess
Mircette
Ortho-Cept
Pimtrea
Velivet
Viorele

Read next: Why the Best Form of Birth Control Is the One No One Uses

TIME medicine

Newer Birth Control Pills Raise the Risk of Blood Clots

A new study puts a number on the risk of developing potentially fatal blood clots after using the pill

Blood clots have been a known risk of oral contraceptives since the 1990s, but for most women, the chances seemed small enough to justify taking the Pill. Now, in a report published in The BMJ, scientists led by Yana Vinogradova, a research fellow at the University of Nottingham, found that using the Pill was linked to anywhere from a two- to more than four-fold increased risk of developing clots compared to women who didn’t take oral contraceptives.

“Our study suggests that the newer contraceptives have a higher risk of [blood clots] than the older agents,” Vinogradova tells TIME in an email. Overall, the risk for women on the Pill was nearly three times that of women not taking the medication. The risk was highest for people taking Pills that contain newer types of the progestogen hormone, such as drospirenone, desogestrel, gestodene, and cyproterone, as compared to people taking the Pill with first-generation versions of the hormone (levonorgestrel and norethisterone).

The difference essentially boils down to the progesterone part of the drug; since the original pill was introduced in 1960, drug developers have tweaked the progesterone to lower side effects such as acne, headache, weight gain and breakthrough bleeding. But the price for those modifications may be more blood clots.

Even after Vinogradova and her team adjusted for the potential contributions of things like cancer, heart disease, varicose veins, arthritis, smoking and obesity on the risk of blood clots, the link between the newer contraceptives and increased risk remained strong.

“While [blood clots] are a relatively rare problem, they are serious and potentially avoidable with the appropriate drug choice,” says Vinogradova. “Doctors need to consider all health issues when prescribing contraceptives, selecting a drug type associated with the lowest risk for patients with particular susceptibilities.”

Whether that means that doctors should start with prescribing the older formulations first—as well non-hormonal birth control like the copper IUD—isn’t clear yet, since the newer forms have certain advantages, including the fact that they disturb the cholesterol system less, which may be important for diabetic women.

The blood clot risk, however, is something that doctors should consider when prescribing the Pill. And since there are different formulations available, Vinogradova says doctors should monitor their patients for any potential symptoms of poor circulation and switch to other formulations if needed.

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