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The Pill May Decrease Bone Density
Date:1/15/2010

p>However, little is known about the effects of oral contraception on bone density. Previous studies have had conflicting results, with some showing no effect or a benefit on bone density while others suggest that oral contraceptives may inhibit bone mass accrual.

The current study was comprised of 606 woman between the ages of 14 and 30. The researchers reviewed oral contraceptive use, the duration of use and the estrogen dose in the contraception, and compared this to bone mineral density tests. The bone density test measured bone density in the hip, spine and whole body.

When the researchers compared oral contraceptive users to non-users they found that women taking oral contraception had average bone mineral density levels that were 5.9 percent less for the spine and 2.3 percent lower for the whole body. There was a trend for lower bone density in the hip as well, though this trend didn't reach statistical significance.

The researchers also noted a trend toward lower bone density in women taking oral contraceptives containing lower doses of estrogen, with the lowest readings in women taking formulations containing less than 30 micrograms of estrogen.

The researchers found no effects in the 14- to 18-year-old age group. However, Schole said it's important to note that contraceptive use was less in this age group than for the women between 19 and 30.

Scholes said the researchers suspect that the hormones in birth control pills are likely affecting normal hormone levels -- perhaps lowering normally circulating estrogen levels -- which then affects bone production.

"The studies on oral contraception and bone density have been conflicting," said Dr. Beatrice Chen, director of the Center for Family Planning Research at Magee-Women's Hospital at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. "Although this study adds to that information, I don't think young women should be scared into stopping birth control.
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