SIRC – Media Watch 30-04-99
According to Professor Klim McPherson, The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the new 'clean bill of health' recently re-awarded to the third generation contraceptive pill may, in fact be misplaced. The reasoning behind his contention is that in the sixties and seventies the pill was taken more by older, married women who used it to plan pregnancy. Today, he argues that its usage is primarily for the prevention of pregnancy and as such is taken by a younger set and for a greater length of time. He suggests that it is this latter group of contraceptive users that require further analysis before the pill can be pronounced 'safe' [Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health. May 1999; 53: 258]. Obviously the summer of love and sexual emancipation must have passed him by!
In response to his claims Professor Valerie Beral of the Imperial Cancer Research Fund cites a recent major study of women who started taking the pill years before their first pregnancy and then ceased. It found that the risk of breast cancer was actually lower for women that took the pill at an early age than those that had never taken it at all. Not surprisingly Professor McPherson's comments have prompted a great deal of concern. Margaret Jones, chief executive of the Brook Advisory Centres: "Women do not deserve another run of scary headlines about a contraceptive which, for the vast majority, is extremely safe and effective."