WHAT'S IN THE WATER?
Countries where the highest numbers of women use oral contraceptives have the highest rates of death from prostate cancer, a new study finds.
Birth control pills contain the female hormone estrogen, and in recent years, some experts have raised concerns about the presence of estrogen and similar compounds in foods and the water supply. The new study may raise those concerns further, though the authors said the findings are preliminary.
“Several studies now have found an association between estrogen exposure and prostate cancer,” said study researcher Dr. David Margel, a uro-oncology fellow at the University of Toronto. In this case, he said, “We think this is environmental —[estrogen] goes into the water, into our food chain.”
Birth control pills often contain a type of estrogen called ethinyloestradiol, which women taking the pills excrete in their urine. The hormone ends up in the water supply, or is taken up by plants or animals that use the water, and then passed up the food chain, according to the study.
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