Friday, 9th June 2023

Scientists link hormonal contraceptives with breast cancer

By Chukwuma Muanya
23 March 2023   |   5:20 am
A new research published, yesterday, in The Guardian of United Kingdom (UK) confirmed that all types of hormonal contraceptives carry a small increased risk of breast cancer.

[FILE PHOTO] Breast cancer

WHO explains unaffordability of chronic diseases drugs
A new research published, yesterday, in The Guardian of United Kingdom (UK) confirmed that all types of hormonal contraceptives carry a small increased risk of breast cancer.

The research establishing a link with progestogen pills for the first time was published in PLOS Medicine. Data analysis by University of Oxford researchers established that the use of progestogen is associated with a 20 to 30 per cent higher risk of breast cancer. This builds on previous work showing that use of the combined contraceptive pill, which contains oestrogen and progestogen, is associated with a small increase in the risk of developing breast cancer that declines after its stoppage.

Claire Knight of Cancer Research, UK, which funded the study, said the risk was small and should not discourage most people from taking the pill. She said: “Women, who are most likely to be using contraception, are under the age of 50, where the risk of breast cancer is even lower. For anyone looking to lower their cancer risk, not smoking, eating a healthy balanced diet, drinking less alcohol and keeping a healthy weight will have the most impact.

“There are lots of possible benefits to using contraception, as well as other risks not related to cancer. That is why deciding to take them is a personal choice and should be done after speaking to your doctor, so you can make a decision that is right for you.”

The research is based on data from 9,498 women, who developed invasive breast cancer between ages 20 and 49, and 18,171 closely matched women without breast cancer.

The scientists found that 44 per cent of women with breast cancer and 39 per cent of women without breast cancer had a prescription for a hormonal contraceptive an average of three years before diagnosis, about half of whom were last prescribed a progestogen-only contraceptive.

MEANWHILE, the World Health Organisation (WHO), in a new report published, yesterday, explained why access to medicines that treat non-communicable diseases (NCDs) remain out-of-reach for millions across the world.

WHO, in the report entitled ‘Access to NCD Medicines: Emergent Issues During the COVID-19 Pandemic and Key Structural Factors’, highlighted the effect of the pandemic on access to NCD medicines, as well as the policies and strategies implemented by countries to both anticipate and mitigate the disruption that has hit medical supply chains.

According to WHO, during the pandemic, people living with cancer, heart diseases, chronic respiratory diseases, diabetes and other NCDs, experienced difficulties in accessing their routine medicines. The new report reviewed the impact of the pandemic on NCD medicines from manufacturing, procurement and importation, to delivery, availability and affordability of drugs.

Director of the Department of NCDs at WHO, Dr. Bente Mikkelsen, said: “COVID-19 has exacerbated the challenges that people living with NCDs face in accessing essential medicines.

“Many have had their treatment disrupted, which can lead to serious health consequences. It is, therefore, very important not only that treatment and care for people living with NCDs are included in national responses and preparedness plans, but that innovative ways are found to implement those plans.”

The report also provides insights and data useful for key stakeholders in the NCD pharmaceutical supply chain, including governments, regulatory authorities, manufacturers, and the private sector, as well as directions for future research toward improved resilience of the system which gets vital medication to patients worldwide.

There is urgent need to improve the transparency of the overall “pharmaceutical information ecology,” the WHO report said, as a foundation for pandemic planning and response.

Director, Health Products Policy and standards, Dr. Clive Ondari, said: “Actions are needed to strengthen the resilience of medicine supply chains globally and in country, to respond to today’s needs and to prepare for emerging challenges, including emergencies and pandemics.”

Globally, more is spent on medicines for NCDs than any other kinds of medication. WHO stresses there is a need to continue to assess the successes and failures of the global supply chain toward improved NCD medicine access and services, as the COVID-19 pandemic progresses.

A longer-term strategy to strengthen access and delivery mechanisms during emergencies and mitigate future outbreaks should be developed, the UN health agency report stresses, with particular emphasis on ensuring the uninterrupted and sustainable provision of medicines and products needed to diagnose and treat chronic diseases.

“Let’s not forget: COVID-19 may be out of sight, but access to NCD medicines is still out of reach for many”, said Mikkelsen.