Depo-Provera, the long-lasting contraceptive that can be injected, doubles the risk of breast cancer among women who have taken it for less than five years. It seems to be at its most dangerous in the first few years of use.
This startling discovery has been made soon after the hormone was finally approved for marketing in the United States. Many countries had held back on a licence because of the breast cancer risks associated with the progesterone contraceptive.
The sudden change of heart by the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was caused by two studies, from New Zealand and by the World Health Organization, which both concluded that the contraceptive did not heighten the cancer risk.
However, a closer analysis of the data shows that the risk in fact doubles in the first five years of taking the hormone, and then drops to almost nothing after that.
Researchers believe that Depo-Provera (DMPA) might quicken tumour promotion and growth. If it does, its potency must be far stronger than doctors believe because just one injection seems able to influence cancer growth for the next five years (JAMA, March 8, 1995).
More reports are coming in about the complications in removing the contraceptive implant Norplant. Complications occurred in 156 of the 3,416 removals reported from 34 centres in 11 countries. Most broke during removal. The worst place to have your Norplant removed is the Philippines, where over 10 per cent of cases had complications; the best was Senegal, which reported no complications at all (Journal Watch, April 15, 1995).
Having been lauded as the safest contraceptive, the male condom is now thought to cause cancer in the woman, and may also make her infertile.
The culprit appears to be talc, a dry lubricant on the surface of condoms. Studies have shown talc to cause ovarian cancer as well as
fibrosis on fallopian tubes, making the woman infertile.
Strangely, the American Food and Drug Administration recognized the dangers of talc on surgical gloves, and banned the process, but allowed its continued application on condoms.
Writing in JAMA, Candace Kasper and P J Chandler of Dallas, Texas fear there could be a major outbreak of ovarian cancer in the years ahead. They also urge condom manufacturers to stop applying talc (JAMA, March 15, 1995).