To the Editor:
While scanning my wife's copy of April 1999 Elle I was dismayed to see poor health advice dispensed because of inappropriate risk comparisons.
On page 275 the "Health News" column states that oral contraceptive pills have dangers that include "a 50% greater risk of circulatory disease and a 20% increased risk of breast cancer," which belies the next statement that the risk is "very remote."
Those numbers would concern me, if true. The latest studies indicate, however, that contraceptive pills, when used properly, have little if any impact on breast cancer. Circulatory problems are seen more often in specific contexts: with smokers and people who have undergone surgery recently, for example. And the risk of circulatory conditions is diminished after one month of discontinuation, not ten years as the column states.
To add to the confusion of risk assessment there is a statement on the first page of copy, page 5, that condones cigarette smoking ("...the Eco Babe lifestyle .. is so much about .. fags (because a girl can't be a New Age saint everyday)."
No one advocates sainthood while negotiating life's varied choices, but one must compare risks and make decisions. Cigarettes are unique in that they are the only legally sold product that damages health when used as directed.
It is shocking that you would frighten women about negligible risks; indeed for women under age forty more die who use no contraception than those who take the Pill, while insouciantly brushing aside so serious, so insidious, so addicting a problem as cigarette smoking.
You perform a grave disservice to your readers.