Somehow, in the year 2015, birth control is still a controversial topic. Plenty of businesses and institutions have been fighting to avoid covering their employees' birth control, citing religious freedom. Aside from being misguided on several levels, this debate misses an important point about birth control: it isn't just about not having babies.
Plenty of people go on oral contraceptives for medical reasons beyond pregnancy prevention.
A recent study in The Lancet, for example, revealed a striking fact about the unexpected long-term benefits many women experience from being on birth control.
In the past 50 years, the birth control pill has prevented 400,000 cases of endometrial cancer. Half of these were in the last decade.
Researchers have long known that the pill helps prevent ovarian cancer, but they hadn't realized the scope of its impact on lowering cancer rates until recently. The study also counters the myth that the pill itself causes cancer. Birth control methods today, especially IUDs, have vastly improved over the last couple of generations. Nonetheless, many people still assume they're unsafe.
What's especially important about this finding is the fact that women's cancer rates were reduced years after they had gone off the pill. Women who had been on it for five years had a 25% lower chance of developing endometrial cancer in their lifetimes, and those who were on it for 10 to 15 years had a 50% lower rate. Uterine cancers usually develop in older women, which is why these long-lasting effects are so significant.