Birth control pills increase risk of breast cancer

Birth control pills increase risk of breast cancer

Birth control pills increase risk of breast cancer

The study didn't find any big distinctions between the hormonal method women used-those who used combined oral contraceptives (which use estrogen and progestin) and those who used progestin-only methods each had a higher risk.

But the researchers add, while this may sound scary, the overall risk of breast cancer remains small for many women; and the pill has its benefits. That means its results show only a correlation, not a causal relationship, between the use of hormonal contraceptives and breast cancer.

The raised chance has been known for some time, but it was thought newer forms - such as those which release progesterone only - would be safer. Following discontinuation of hormonal contraception, the breast cancer risk was still higher among women who had used hormonal contraceptives for at least 5 years compared with women who had never used them. After following almost 2 million women in Denmark for a decade, scientists suggest the hormone progestin, widely used in today's pill packs and IUDs, may be the culprit. For instance, a large-scale 2010 study found that birth control pills came with a "marginally significant higher risk" of breast cancer. Therefore, it wasn't clear if this risk applied to newer formulations of birth control pills or to other birth control methods, including intrauterine devices (IUDs) and implants that contain only the hormone progestin. During that period, 11,517 of the women were diagnosed with invasive breast cancer.

The benefits persisted for many years after stopping the pill, perhaps 30 or more years.

More than 40,000 women will be killed by breast cancer this year in the USA, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS).


"We still have so far to go birth control and it's effect on the female body is something we absolutely have to consider but it's really important that I think every woman pauses and has that conversation one-on-one with your physician", Stone said.

Yet Hunter also urges the scientific community to recharge its search "for an oral contraceptive that does not elevate the risk of breast cancer". Some IUDS also don't use hormones, she said. She underwent a double mastectomy, then opted to go on the birth control pill to reduce her ovarian cancer risk while she and her husband considered surgery to remove her ovaries.

Dr. Dona Hobart, medical director of the Center for Breast Health at Carroll Hospital, said that women have to make a similar decision when deciding whether to take hormone replacement therapy, which also can increase the risk for breast cancer. The study's disclosure statement also notes that two of the current study's authors joined the foundation after the paper was published.

In an editorial that accompanied the study, Dr. David Hunter of the University of Oxford wrote that the search should continue for birth control that doesn't increase the risk of breast cancer. Six months after starting use of hormonal contraceptives, the RR of antidepressant use peaked at 1.4 (95% CI, 1.34-1.46).

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