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Birth Control And Breast Cancer

Should I Use Birth Control Pills If I Have Cancer

Birth Control And Breast Cancer

Women who have had or currently have breast cancer should not take birth control pills. Women who have uterine cancer also should not take birth control pills. The hormones in birth control pills have a negative effect on some cancer tumors. It is best for women with any form of cancer to consult their physician about taking birth control pills.

Women who are receiving chemotherapy treatment for cancer do not want to get pregnant, as chemotherapy drugs can harm a developing baby. They should consult their physician to see if they can take birth control pills or discuss what method of birth control would be most effective.

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What Is Known About The Relationship Between Oral Contraceptive Use And Cancer

Nearly all the research on the link between oral contraceptives and cancer risk comes from observational studies, both large prospective cohort studies and population-based casecontrol studies. Data from observational studies cannot definitively establish that an exposurein this case, oral contraceptivescauses cancer. That is because women who take oral contraceptives may differ from those who dont take them in ways other than their oral contraceptive use, and it is possible that these other differencesrather than oral contraceptive useare what explains their different cancer risk.

Overall, however, these studies have provided consistent evidence that the risks of breast and cervical cancers are increased in women who use oral contraceptives, whereas the risks of endometrial, ovarian, and colorectal cancers are reduced .

Research Table: Birth Control Pills And Breast Cancer Risk

This summary table contains detailed information about research studies. Summary tables are a useful way to look at the science behind many breast cancer guidelines and recommendations. However, to get the most out of the tables, its important to understand some key concepts. Learn how to read a research table.

Introduction: Women who currently use birth control pills have a slightly increased risk of breast cancer.

A pooled analysis of over 50 studies found a small increase in breast cancer risk among women who were currently taking the pill or had recently used it for 10 or more years . However, this risk disappeared 10 years after women stopped taking the pill .

Although most studies have looked at older, higher dose forms of the pill, todays lower-dose pills also appear to increase breast cancer risk .

Study selection criteria: Prospective cohort studies with at least 500 breast cancer cases, pooled analyses and meta-analyses.

Table note: Relative risk above 1 indicates increased risk. Relative risk below 1 indicates decreased risk.

* Past use was defined as one year to less than 5 years. Results also showed no increase in risk when past use was defined as less than one year, 5-10 years and more than 10 years.

Past use was defined as 5-15 years ago.

All women had a family history of breast cancer.

§ All women were premenopausal.

|| Follow-up time was estimated from start and end dates of the study.

¶ Past use was defined as more than 4 years ago.

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The Pill And Cancer: Is There A Link

Most birth control pills contain man-made versions of the female sexhormones estrogen and progesterone. So, are they putting you at risk for cancer?

Does your birth control pill put you at risk for cancer? Or, does it actually protect you from the disease?

A lot of people think the pill always ups your risk of cancer, but thats simply not true, says Andrea Milbourne, M.D., Head of the Section of General Gynecology at MD Anderson Cancer Center. In many cases, it can actually lower your risk for certain cancers.

Heres what researchers know: Oral contraceptives better known as the pill may affect a womans chances of developing breast and gynecologic cancers. In some cases, that means a bigger chance of cancer. In others, it means protection against cancer.

The reason? Most oral contraceptives contain man-made versions of the female sex hormones estrogen and progesterone. Taking the pill changes your hormone levels, which can trigger or in some cases prevent some female cancers.

Below, we break down the pills protective benefits and risks.

Protective perks include lower ovarian and endometrial cancer risks

Taking the pill may help cut your risk of ovarian cancer and endometrial cancer. Thats probably because women who take the pill ovulate, or release eggs from the ovaries, fewer times than women who dont take the pill. The more times you ovulate over your lifetime, the more hormones youre exposed to.

Andrea Milbourne, M.D.

Birth Control And Ovarian Cancer

Birth Control and Breast Cancer: New Study Suggests a Potential Link ...

Use of hormonal birth control decreases the risk of ovarian cancer . Hormonal birth control is thought to reduce the risk of ovarian cancer by suppressing ovulation . The process of ovulation causes damage to the ovaries , which, over time, can cause the development of cancer.

Combined-hormonal methodsâlike the pill, patch, and ringâhave consistently been shown to decrease risk . Progestin-only methodsâlike the contraceptive shot, hormonal IUD, and implantâare generally found to decrease risk , though one study found that this decrease was not statistically significant .

As with endometrial cancer, current users of hormonal contraception had the greatest reduction in risk, but former users may also be less likely to develop ovarian cancer for years after discontinuation . People who use hormonal birth control for multiple years appear to benefit more than people who use these methods for less time .

Behaviors or life events that prevent ovulation, like use of some hormonal birth control methods, pregnancy, and breastfeeding, are associated with a decrease in the risk of ovarian cancer .

Clue can help you track your menstrual cycle characteristics and the changes in your body over the course of your cycle, which may be helpful in assessing if hormonal birth control is right for you.

to track your menstrual cycle and birth control use

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Birth Control And Endometrial Cancer

Use of some forms of hormonal birth control the risk of endometrial cancer.

Current users of estrogen-containing pills have half as much risk as those who never used hormonal methods . Former-users of the pill also have a reduced risk after discontinuation .

There has been less research on progestin-only birth control, but some studies have found reduced risks too. One study from 2014 found that people with heavy menstrual bleeding who used the hormonal IUD had half the risk of developing endometrial cancer . Users of the progestin-only shot have been found to be at reduced risk , and progestin-only pills might also reduce risk , though more research is needed.

Theoretically, users of progestin-only methods should be at a reduced risk, because it is thought that the synthetic progestins prevent the development of endometrial cancer .

The hormonal IUD and an oral form of the progestin found in the contraceptive shot have actually been used to treat some forms of endometrial cancer and endometrial hyperplasia, or abnormal cell growth .

Does Taking Birth Control Pills Increase My Risk Of Developing Breast Cancer

Maybe. Studies that have examined the use of oral contraceptives as a risk factor for breast cancer have produced conflicting results. Some researchers think this might be due to the fact that the level of hormones in birth control pills has changed since they were first studied. Early birth control pills contained much higher levels of hormones than today’s low-dose pills and posed a higher risk.

Scandinavian researchers have noted an increase in breast cancer in a group of women that were currently taking or had recently taken birth control pills. Longer use of the pill seemed to increase the risk. Similar research found that 10 years or more after women stopped using birth control pills, their breastcancer risk returned to the same level as if they had never used birth control pills.

However, another reputable study by Women’s Contraceptive and Reproductive Experience done between 1994 and 1998 showed there was no increased risk of breastcancer in current or former users of birth control pills.

In general, most studies have not found an overall increased risk of breast cancer due to the use of oral contraceptives.

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What Are Oral Contraceptives

Oral contraceptives are hormone-containing medications that are taken by mouth to prevent pregnancy. They prevent pregnancy by inhibiting ovulation and also by preventing sperm from penetrating through the cervix.

By far the most commonly prescribed type of oral contraceptive in the United States contains synthetic versions of the natural female hormones estrogen and progesterone. This type of birth control pill is often called a combined oral contraceptive. Another type of oral contraceptive, sometimes called the mini pill, contains only progestin, which is a man-made version of progesterone.

Pregnancy And Breast Cancer Risk

Heres How Birth Control Affects Breast Cancer Risk | NBC Nightly News

Angela Lanfranchi, MD, co-founder of the Breast Cancer Prevention Institute and Clinical Assistant Professor of Surgery at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, has written an extensive peer-reviewed article as well as brochures about how breast tissue develops before and during pregnancy, and much of what follows is based on her writings and insights shared during an interview with Natural Womanhood.

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What Evidence Links Oral Contraceptives To Breast Cancer

They have been classified as human carcinogens by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Several studies have found an association between the use of oral contraceptives and elevated risks of breast cancer.,, These risks are further impacted by variables that include age at initiating use, length of use, genetic makeup and race/ethnicity.,, Risk levels return to normal years after suspending use of the pill. A study of post-menopausal women who used oral contraceptives for eight or more years, but who had discontinued use for at least a decade, showed no significant increase in breast cancer rates.,

Women who used oral contraceptives within five years of their first menstruation had an elevated risk of breast cancer. Those who used oral contraceptives for longer than five years also had a higher risk for developing breast cancer.

One study found that women under 35 years of age who used oral contraceptives were more likely to develop breast cancer. In addition, their cancer was more likely to be diagnosed at a later stage.Several studies have explored the risk of breast cancer in women who are carriers for the breast cancer genes BRCA1 and BRCA2. Mutations in these genes increase a womens susceptibility to breast cancer. In carriers of BRCA1 and BRCA2, the use of oral contraceptives further increases the risk of breast cancer.,,

Birth Control And Cancer: Can Oral Contraceptives Prevent Ovarian Cancer

Lawrence Memorial Hospital of Medford, Melrose-Wakefield Hospital

Certain forms of birth control may decrease your risk for ovarian cancer.

For years, women have dealt with a barrage of myths and street knowledge about birth control. One of these commonly held concerns is that certain contraceptives, such as the pill, cause ovarian cancer. But research has suggested that the opposite is true.

In fact, since 2014, we have been prescribing two forms of birth control with the goal of preventing ovarian cancer in mind:

  • Oral birth control, a.k.a. the pill
  • Severing or removing part of the fallopian tubes, otherwise known as tubal resection

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Study Finds Small Breast Cancer Risk Linked With Todays Hormonal Birth Control

A study of Danish women finds that newer forms of contraceptives, including birth control pills and hormone-releasing IUDs, increase the risk of breast cancer about as much as older forms of hormonal contraceptives about 20%. Studies have long shown that hormonal birth control slightly raises breast cancer risk. But newer contraceptives contain less of the hormone drugs estradiol and progestin, and it was hoped that they would not increase breast cancer risk as much.

The study was published December 6 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Researchers from the University of Copenhagen looked at the records of all the women in Denmark between the ages of 15 and 49. They followed 1.8 million women for almost 11 years to compare those who had used contraception to those who hadnt, and see how many of them were diagnosed with breast cancer. Overall, they found that women who used hormonal contraception had about a 20% higher risk of breast cancer than women who had never used hormonal contraception.

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Brca Genes And Cancer

Risk of breast cancer linked with birth control

The BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes are 2 genes that everybody has. These genes usually protect us from breast and ovarian cancers. If you get a mutation in one of these genes they no longer give us that protection.

The risk is highest for breast cancer in women, but its also above average for ovarian cancer, prostate cancer, breast cancer in men and pancreatic cancer.

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Women With A Brca Gene Mutation Or Other Inherited Cancer Risk Have Options

Women who have an increased gynecologic cancer risk due to a BRCA mutation or Lynch syndrome may receive a significant cancer risk reduction from using the pill or a hormonal IUD.

Dr. Goldfrank recommends that women with an inherited cancer risk speak with their gynecologist about the best method for them. The possible small increased risk of breast cancer that might be associated with long-term hormonal contraception use needs to be considered alongside other benefits and risk factors.

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What To Make Of It All

When it comes to cancer, there are some things that the evidence clearly points to. For instance, the relationship between smoking and cancer is unequivocal. Smoking is responsible for one in four cancer deaths in the UK.

Likewise, theres a clear link between bodyweight and cancer and ovarian cancer is more common among women who are overweight. So making sure you keep a healthy bodyweight and quit smoking are both good things to do if you are worried about your cancer risk.

Others recommendations need to be more subtly nuanced and made on an individual basis.

Your doctor can help you to make an informed choice about whether to use the Pill. This decision should first consider whether its a suitable form of contraceptive for you, and also account for the known risks and benefits of using the Pill, your lifestyle, your personal beliefs and preferences, and whether you have a strong family history of cancer or certain other diseases.

And while were talking of risk, lets not forget what the Pill was designed to do: its 99.7 per cent effective at preventing unwanted pregnancies when used correctly a benefit that must also be weighed against any potential risks.

Olly Childs


  • Tsilidis, K. et al . Oral contraceptive use and reproductive factors and risk of ovarian cancer in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition British Journal of Cancer, 105 , 1436-1442 DOI: 10.1038/bjc.2011.371

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Should I Use The Contraceptive Pill

Your doctor can help you to make an informed choice about whether to use the pill. You should think about the risks and benefits, any health conditions you have and what you want to do.

There are many other birth control options available. These include hormonal contraceptives such as the implant, injection, and IUS . There are also contraceptives that dont contain hormones, such as the IUD . Speak to your doctor about what could work best for you.

And remember there are other things that can affect your risk of cancer more than the pill. These include smoking or not keeping a healthy weight.

Birth Control And Breast Cancer

Birth control raises risk of breast cancer

Both estrogen-containing birth control methods and progestin-only methods have been associated with increased risk of breast cancer .

In one large study published in 2017, which included all women in Denmark, it was found that people who were currently using or recently used any form of hormonal birth control were, on average as a group, about 20% more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer as compared to people who were not using hormonal contraceptives .

The risk of a particular method is not necessarily 20% though. Some hormonal methods had higher risk, and some had lower. For example, this study found there was no increase in risk among implant-users or users of the progestin-only shot , but we need more research to confirm these results.

The association between estrogen-containing pills and breast cancer has been studied the most. The risk of breast cancer diagnosis has been found to be 20% higher among current or recent users of the pill as compared to non-users of any hormonal birth control .

The specific formulation of the pill, such as the amount of estrogen and the type of progestin, may play a role in the risk of developing breast cancer, but more research is needed .

Two studies have found that the hormonal IUD also increases risk by about 20% .

The increase in the risk of breast cancer appears to be highest while people are currently using hormonal birth control, and appears to decrease over time after people stop using their hormonal method .

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Does The Pill Increase Your Risk Of Cancer Research Shows That Women Who Use The Birth Control Pill Have A Slightly Increased Risk Of Breast Cervical And Liver Cancer

The pill and breast cancer risk

Women who use the birth control pill may have a small increased risk of breast cancer. The risk is smaller for women who used the birth control pill after their first full-term pregnancy.

The pill and cervical cancer risk

The risk appears to be greater for developing early stage cervical cancer than it is for more advanced forms of the disease.

The pill and liver cancer risk

Women who took birth control pills for more than 5 years before doses and formulas changed may have a slightly higher risk of developing liver cancer.


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