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New Male Birth-Control Options May Be on the Way

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WebMD Health News

April 17, 2000 -- Although it may be 10-15 years before a male "birth control pill" is ready for the market, researchers are testing several promising types of hormonal contraceptives for men. Not only could these methods be effective for birth control, researchers say, some might offer protection from some types of cancer and even help to reduce baldness.

"Available options for contraception in the male are limited to vasectomy and condoms; for a lot of men those options are not very attractive," says John Amory, MD, who reviewed the recent research for an article in the journal Trends in Endocrinology and Metabolism. "Vasectomy is difficult to reverse, and condoms are not 100% effective. A hormonal contraceptive would be reversible, and it would be much more effective than condoms." Amory is acting instructor of medicine at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle.

"At long last, it does look like we may be getting somewhere on hormonal contraceptive methods for men," says David Baird, MD, who reviewed the article for WebMD. Baird is a professor at the Center for Reproductive Biology at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. If a male pill or shot is developed, he says, "not everyone will want to use it. [But] it will give people a wider choice."

Apparently, many men would be interested in using hormonal contraceptives if they were available. The Edinburgh center recently conducted a large survey of men's attitudes on this issue; the same questions were asked in Edinburgh and in South Africa, Hong Kong, and Shanghai. "About 90% of men thought a male hormonal contraceptive was a good idea," Baird says. "About 60-70% said if it was available now, they would use it sometime within the next decade."

Female birth-control pills have other uses aside from contraception, Amory notes. He believes that a pill for men could have similar benefits.

"Potentially, the male pill could reduce the risk of prostate cancer and testicular cancer," he says. "Depending on the specific makeup of the medication, it might reduce acne, benign [enlarged prostate], and male pattern baldness."

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