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Doctors find teen girls using contraception are alarmingly losing bone mass

Martin M. Barillas Martin M. Barillas Follow Martin

VANCOUVER, February 15, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – Teen girls who use hormonal contraception like ‘the pill’ showed significant bone loss, increasing their risk of “later life fractures,” a new scientific study has found. The authors of the study say that their findings are "of concern" and present a "potential public health problem."

According to Dr. Jerilynn C. Prior of the department of medicine at the University of British Columbia (UBC), a meta-analysis of controlled, observational studies found that healthy teenage girls who used combined hormonal contraception (including estrogen and progestin via several delivery methods) showed significant spinal bone loss over two years.

Dr. Prior is a professor of endocrinology and metabolism at UBC, and founder and scientific director at the Centre for Menstrual Cycle and Ovulation Research in Vancouver. She told Endocrine Today, “Instead of using combined hormonal contraception as the go-to, routine therapy in adolescent girls, we need to use evidence-based and physiological ways to treat cramps, heavy flow, irregular cycles and acne, and nonhormonal methods for contraception.” The study, titled "Adolescent use of combined hormonal contraception and peak bone mineral density accrual: A meta‐analysis of international prospective controlled studies" was published Jan. 7, 2019. 

The study indicates “adolescence is a key time in women's life cycle for bone accrual, for decreasing later life osteoporosis and lifetime fragility fracture risk,” and peak bone mass density (BMD) is “gained in women ages 16 and 19 years and lumbar spine peak BMD is achieved between ages 33 and 40…” Citing the risk of loss of BMD, the study states: “Those who achieve a lower peak BMD are widely believed to be at increased risk of later life fractures, although prospective BMD and incident fragility fracture data are scarce.”

The study was conducted in Brazil, Canada, China, and the United States and showed bone mass density loss over one to two years. Prior and her colleagues analyzed data from nine clinical trials and observational, longitudinal studies that included teen girls who were using hormonal contraception (including estrogen and progestin in oral, patch or ring preparation). Those monitored for 12 months showed bone loss, while bone loss continued to be evident for the girls in the 24-month study. 

In summary, the study showed that teen girls on contraception showed significantly less bone growth than those not using contraception, even when they are prescribed lower estrogen doses than in previous years. Because hormonal contraception is increasingly used even for “treatment of mild symptomatic, non‐contraceptive reasons such as acne and cramps,” the authors of the study fear that a “negative public health impact” may result.

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