Sunday, January 27, 2008

Lancet birth control pill report betrays women


Sheesh! They are at it again.

It's all over the news that that the latest study on birth control pills appearing in The Lancet reduces women's chances of getting ovarian cancer.

But the study is so flawed as to defy common sense.

The researchers compared about 110,000 women, namely 87,000 healthy women who do not have ovarian cancer to 23,000 who do and found that a higher percentage of those who had no ovarian cancer had previously taken birth control pills. (I'll get back to the bolded healthy part in a minute.) The study sounds pretty clever, right?

It sure did trick Lancet who published it, and the media who were happy to report it.

The problem...and it's a ghastly one...is that the researchers didn't track the women from the beginning. They merely took the results of studies on living women.

So what we don't know is how many of the women who took birth control pills died from other causes. It is well known that birth control pills cause blot clots and strokes, along with increasing other types of cancer. Thus we have no clue as to the total health effects on the women.

Even so, if one were to swallow the results whole, the birth control pills protected 2 women in 1,000 from dying from ovarian cancer. Not 2% or 20%, but two-tenths of a percent.

When a supposed improvement is so tiny, it requires multiplying it b an extraordinarily large number to claim that 100,000 lives would be saved. The authors were only to happy to do that.

But the problem is that with such a tiny sliver of improvement, the darn thing could be horribly wrong. Furthermore, when you factor in the deaths...remember them...from strokes, the .2% 'benefit' evaporates like rain drops on a sunny day.

Now let's talk about the 87,000 healthy women. The fact that they were healthy skews the study so bad one could make a french-curve ruler out of it. For instance, it would exclude women in wheelchairs who got put there by blot clots to their brains.

The study doesn't include the women who died from strokes either. They couldn't be a part of the study because the researchers hadn't tracked patients from day one!

Restricting the study to living healthy women while excluding sick or dead women makes the study worse than worthless.
Here is why.

The study is bound to get major publicity. Which means more doctors will prescribe birth control and more women are going to go on the pill mistakenly thinking it offers some protection.

Since the study could only produce a .2% improvement by restricting the population, and while excluding all the debilitating and deadly downsides, more women will die needlessly.

This study published by The Lancet is an embarrassment to their reputation.
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William Kelley Eidem is the author of The Doctor Who Cures Cancer and It's Not Just For Sex. Your comments including signature lines (2 lines max) are welcome.

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