I read with interest the current press regarding the potential of the oral contraceptive pill to protect women against bowel cancer. A study from Italy, which looked at the results of 19 different studies, has been published in the British Journal of Cancer. The mortality rates for female bowel cancer has fallen steadily over several decades and it is thought that the oestrogens in the contraceptive pill might be partially responsible.
Oestrogens in the Pill can alter bile acids profiles. Bile acids have been implicated in the development of colorectal cancer and this is an area into which I undertook scientific research for an MD thesis in 1995.
Whatever the exact mechanism of action, the observations from this study, should lead scientists to further research to see which components of the oral contraceptive pill can be harnessed to help reduce the death rate from colorectal cancer. Up to 34,000 people were diagnosed with bowel cancer in the UK in 1996 and 17,000 people died of colorectal cancer (the second biggest cancer killer) in the UK in 1999.