The Dr. Oz Show
Airdate: March 9, 2012
The Controversial Pill That May Prevent Cancer After 40
- Could a birth control pill prevent cancer risk for women over 40?
- Which is the right Pill to reduce cancer risks
- Side-effects of the Pill for women over 40
- Dr. Oz translates food labels and busts myths
- Anti-aging skin care myths busted
It's controversial but, this pill may cut cancer risks by as much as 50%. Many women took the Pill in their 20s to prevent pregnancy. In their 30s and 40s those same women stopped taking the Pill believing that their risk of getting cancer would increase the longer they were on it. That belief could be shattered today. Dr. Oz talks to two top women's cancer health specialists to learn what benefits the Pill can offer women over 40.
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The Controversial Pill That May Prevent Cancer After 40
The Pill may not be just for women in their 20s any more. Many doctors have started to prescribe the Pill for women over 40 to support them through perimenopause and menopause symptoms including the dreaded hot flashes. Women taking the Pill for 5 years or more, at any point in their life, may benefit from a decreased risk of ovarian and endometrial cancers – as much as a 50% reduction.
Doctors explain that there is not much in their arsenal of preventatives to help women reduce the risks of these cancers, beyond eating right and exercising. Women were led to believe that they could take the pill to prevent pregnancy until she wants to get pregnant then get off the Pill and never go back on.
How many women have taken the Pill? 80% of women have taken the Pill at some point in their life, most in their 20s. Many misconceptions have developed over the risks that the Pill may present and little has been said about the possible reduction in cancer risks.
Dr. Oz says this episode may change women's attitudes about the Pill and may even make them reconsider using it again in their 40s and beyond.
With a regular cycle, the ovaries release eggs into the uterus, 12 to 13 eggs in the cycle over a year. In a lifetime that's about 520 eggs. The more eggs that are released, even during a normal cycle, the greater the risk of ovarian and other types of cancers. How can the Pill reduce cancer risks?
Dr. Carolyn Westhoff, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology with Columbia University Medical Center has preformed testing on the Pill for the FDA. Dr. Westhoff explains that the balance of estrogen and progesterone in the Pill put the ovaries to sleep allowing the body to release fewer eggs and therefore reduce the risks of reproductive cancers.
Dr. Oz showed an animation of an egg being released from the ovary. As an egg is released, it bursts through the ovary causing scarring. As more scar tissue accumulates on the ovary, ovarian cancer risks rise.
Dr. Judith Wolf, gynecological oncologist with Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center, says that for women taking the Pill for at least 5 years can reduce their cancer risks by 50% by taking it at any point in life.
In the uterus, the rise and fall of hormones during normal cycles can increase the risks of endometrial cancer. Dr. Wolf explained that progesterone in the Pill decreases the growth in the lining of uterus during cycles to support a reduction in risks of cancer.
Dr. Oz showed a tissue sample of a normal uterus. They are actually quite small. Eggs that come out of the ovaries are so small they can't bee seen with the naked eye. Next to the normal set, he showed a cancerous ovary and a cancerous uterus. The organs were a good 10-20 times the size of the normal.
In addition to reducing ovarian and endometrial cancers, taking the Pill could also reduce risks of colon cancer by as much as 20%. This cancer risk reduction shocked Dr. Oz.
Dr. Wolf explained that the same way that progesterone reduces cancer risks for the uterus, it decreases growth of cells in the colon which can reduce cancer risks there as well.
What is the ideal age to take the Pill for the cancer risk reduction benefits and for what length should it be taken?
Dr. Westhoff explained that taking the Pill for 5 years provides the main benefit but longer could be better. A woman could take the pill anytime during her life cycle. There is not specific recommended age. We most commonly think of women in their 20s taking it to prevent pregnancy but, women in their 40s may also need protection from pregnancy as well as support for hormonal changes during perimenopause and menopause. The Pill can help support both concerns.
Audience Questions About the Pill
Dr. Oz goes into the audience to find out what concerns and fears women may have. He says he's surprised by how many perceptions there are about the Pill.
Dr. Oz Audience Questions: Does the Pill increase breast cancer risks?
Dr. Westhoff says that the breast cancer risk issue is a common concern because breast cancer is related to hormones. She says the Pill does not increase breast cancer risks. While there is a small increased risk while a woman takes the Pill, the net risk of breast cancer across a life time is not increased.
Dr. Westhoff explained that the risk of cervical cancer does increase slightly when taking the Pill but getting a regular pap test provide early detection even before cancer cells can take hold. She recommended that women get a pap test every 2 years.
Dr. Oz Audience Questions: For women over 35, can the pill can cause blood clots?
Dr. Wolf explained that there can be an increased risk of blood clots in women who are taking the Pill but for women who don't have a family history that risk is low.
Dr. Oz Audience Questions: Does the Pill cause weight gain?
Dr. Wolf answered that multiple studies have shown that the Pill does not cause weight gain. The only thing that causes weight gain is eating more calories then are burned.
Dr. Oz Audience Questions: She believes it's unnatural to mess with the body's natural cycle but, how can you still gain the cancer risk reductions?
Ovulating over 500 times is a recent development in women's reproductive health. Looking back at history, women didn't ovulate as many times as women do today, says Dr. Westhoff. Modern women tend to experience an earlier onset of ovulation and have fewer children both of which cause a greater length in menstruation throughout a life time. By reducing the number of times a woman ovulates over her life time, the Pill could actually support a lower and therefore a more normal total number of ovulations.
Dr. Oz Audience Questions: For hot flashes due to menopause, how does the Pill differ from hormone therapy?
Perimenopause with irregular or otherwise aggravated periods, can be supported by taking the Pill after age 40. Women in perimenopause still need pregnancy protection. When a woman enters menopause and eggs are gone, then she can take a smaller amount to still support hormonal balance. Women can take the pill up to age 50 or 52. Dr. Westhoff explained that hormone therapy does not reduce cancer risks.
The Right Pill To Prevent Cancer
To recap, Dr. Oz stated the the Pill can help to reduce the risks of endometrial, colon and ovarian cancers. Taking the Pill as birth control is only one reason a woman may chose to take it. The Pil can provide regularity for women experiencing irregular periods, can provide a lighter period, less cramping, and a reduction in acne. Perimenopause and menopause symptoms could also be reduced with the Pill.
Dr. Oz: The Right Pill to Prevent Cancer - Standard Birth Control Pill
Dr. Westoff explained that the benefits for cancer reduction from the Pill kicks in early, within a year or two with the most benefit being gained after 5 years. Benefits gained from taking the Pill will remain for the rest of the woman's life.
Women over 40 entering menopause or perimenopause can experience hormone related bone loss. The Pill can help to prevent that bone loss.
Dr. Oz: The Right Pill to Prevent Cancer - Extended Cycle Pill
The extended cycle pill stops a woman from having a period for months at a time. Dr. Oz wondered if stopping the normal cycle could present a danger to women.
Dr. Wolf stated that extended cycle pill poses no dangers to women and in fact, can provide benefits from reduced menstrual symptoms and associated anemia from heavy bleeding. There exists the possible detriment of early on-set of menopause but even that is not dangerous, according to Dr. Wolf.
Dr. Oz: The Right Pill to Prevent Cancer - Medicated IUD
Dr. Westhoff said that the hormones and copper released from a medicated IUD could reduce risks of endometrial cancer. There is no evidence, she continued, that an IUD provides any risk reduction in ovarian cancer.
Dr. Oz: Who Shouldn't Take The Pill
Women over age 35 who smoke, women who have a history of previous blood clots in the legs or lungs, and women who have a history of breast cancer should not take the Pill. Dr. Westhoff explained that for most women all the benefits of the Pill will out weigh the risks.
Dr. Oz: Side-Effects of The Pill
Side-effects of the Pill can include a lowered sex drive, mood swings, headaches, spotting, and breast tenderness. None of these are dangerous and there should be no fear surrounding them, explains Dr. Westhoff.
Spotting and breast tenderness typically early when a woman begins taking the Pill and these side-effects don't often last long. If symptoms do last long, a different type of Pill may be considered.
When patients complain of a lowered sex drive that they believe to be caused by taking the pill, Dr. Westhoff explains that after a few questions she typically finds that the woman has a lot of stress in her life, a busy work life, a busy home life. Often, she finds that it's the stress of an overwhelmed life and not from the Pill.
Dr. Oz Bottom Line on The Pill
Women between the ages of 35 and 50 who have already had kids and are going through perimenopause, irregular periods, and adult acne may want to consider going on the Pill again. He says that the Pill can safely reduce reproductive cancers.
Busting Food Label Misconceptions
There are many misconceptions about food. With all the catch phrases out there, it's easy to get confused: low-fat, low calorie, energy boosting, whole grains. Dr. Oz translates food labels from foods that the audience members brought from home.
Dr. Oz: Food Label Misconceptions - “Lightly Sweetened”
Mary brought canned fruit labeled as “lightly sweetened”. She says she wants healthy foods that are good for you too. The fruit was listed as “in syrup” so she thought it was a good choice.
Dr. Oz explained that a product labeled as “lightly sweetened” could have from 1g to 100g or more of sugar added. The term “lightly sweetened” is not regulated. Instead, look for a product labeled “no sugar added” which is regulated by the FDA.
Dr. Oz: Food Label Misconceptions - “Good Source of Fiber”
Tanya brought in a high fiber breakfast bar. She tries to eat as much fiber as she can each day. Dr. Oz explained the term “Good source of fiber” doesn't have much meaning; there is no regulation of the term. He says the type of fiber in the product is the most important information to look for on the label. Manufacturers may be adding fibers that are not as healthy. Not all fiber is created equal. Check the label for the type of fiber.
Dr. Oz: Food Label Misconceptions - “Made With Real Fruit”
Kimberly brought in Greek yogurt with real berries. She has it everyday for breakfast. Dr. Oz says the term “Made with real fruit” doesn't mean much. He would rather people eat real, actual fruit rather than packaged items that say “made with real fruit”. The reality is that these products is that the fruit it's made with may not the fruit pictured on the label and the amount of fruit may not be of any benefit.
Look at the label for the type of fruit and that the fruit is listed at the top of ingredients. Fruit listed at the bottom of the ingredients list means there isn't hardly any in there.
Dr. Oz: Food Label Misconceptions - “Made With Whole Grains”
Lucy brought steel oats. She tries to stick with ingredients she can pronounce. Unfortunately, says Dr. Oz., the term “made with whole grains” is a fake-out. Many products with this term contain minimal amounts of whole grain or use a processed corn, which is not the best choice. Look for products that state 100% whole wheat, or some other whole grain. That's the only way you can get what you pay for.
Busting Supplement Misconceptions
Dr. Oz: Busting Supplement Misconceptions - Multivitamin
Most people take their multivitamin in the morning after breakfast. Dr. Oz says a multivitamin is a wonderful insurance policy that can help out if you're not eating enough healthy options. Instead of one vitamin in the morning, he says to cut that pill in half, taking one half in the morning and one in the evening.
The body metabolizes differently in the morning and in the evening. The body can't process a day's worth of nutrients at one time. Splitting up the dose allows to absorb more nutrients. Get a multivitamin that recommends two pills per serving to make it easy to take one pill in the morning and one in the evening without cutting up pills.
Dr. Oz: Busting Supplement Misconceptions - Fish Oil
Fish oils and their omega-3's are great for supporting heart health but, Dr. Oz says you don't have to take fish oil to get those healthy omega-3's. Fish are eating algae to get their omega's and so can you. Dr. Oz recommends an algae sourced omega-3. It's a more sustainable, inexpensive, better source of omega's.
Dr. Oz: Busting Supplement Misconceptions – Vitamin C
People will take mega doses of Vitamin C to prevent or get rid of a cold. Dr. Oz says there is not much evidence that large doses of Vitamin C support the body through a cold. The body can't absorb Vitamin C efficiently and pees out what's left over. Dr. Oz recommends taking 60mg of Vitamin C in multiple servings throughout the day so the body can absorb it more efficiently.
Busting Anti-Aging Fixes
Many women worry that they are spending too much money on anti-aging creams that may not be doing what we think. Dr. Oz wants to shed light on the truth about caring for wrinkles and dry, dull skin. The audience assistant says she uses hemorrhoid cream under her 50-year-old eyes. [She looked in her early 40s.]
Dr. Oz Anti-Aging Fixes Lie: Cover wrinkles with liquid foundations
Liquid foundations will sink into wrinkles making them more apparent. Instead, use a silicone-based primer before applying foundation to allow the make-up to sit on top of the skin and not go into wrinkles.
Dr. Oz Anti-Aging Fixes Lie: Exfoliate facial skin every day
A chemical or manual exfoliation, it's all the same and doing it everyday can irritate and weaken the skin. Dr. Oz recommends exfoliating every other day. He says to avoid rough sponges and loofahs. Use, instead, a baby washcloth to treat your face like you would a baby's bottom – gentle and with care.
Dr. Oz Anti-Aging Fixes Lie: Showers are better than baths for dry skin
As discussed earlier this week, heat in the shower is bad for the skin. A bath can be just as moisturizing, if you use oatmeal. Colloidal oatmeal floats on surface of water and comes in more contact with the skin.
Dr. Oz Bonus Tips!
Sea salt is not a healthier option for people looking to reduce their blood pressure. Sea salt has the same amount of sodium as regular salt. To reduce sodium from the diet, Dr. Oz recommends using herbs and spices to season your food.
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