Hey Doc,

I am wondering if birth control can cause tumor growth. My 16-year-old niece had a schwannoma tumor removed two years ago. There was a small piece left connected to spine. they monitor it and no growth until recently. Found out she had started taking birth control pills and wondering if this could have caused it.

-Julie

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Dear Julie,

An interesting question. BC pills are known to increase certain brain tumors such as gliomas.
Schwann cells produce myelin which is how nerves communicate. Progesterone is the strongest stimulant to the production of myelin, so needless to say Schwann cells have an increase in progesterone receptor sites. Is it possible that progesterone exerts a protective effect? Who knows? When a woman is on BC pills, she stops ovulating. She also stops producing progesterone at this time, which may stimulate the growth of these tumors.
I suspect that there is a connection between these tumors and BC pills. It might be interesting to see if progesterone cream would shrink it.
Michael E. Platt, md