Study Finds Link between Birth Control and Breast Cancer Risk


They found that, for every 100,000 women, there were 68 cases of breast cancer per year in women using hormonal birth control versus 55 annual breast cancer cases among those who didn't. "Indeed, some calculations have suggested that the net effect of the use of oral contraceptives for 5 years or longer is a slight reduction in the total risk of cancer", Hunter said.

That may sound scary. After all, it means that almost a quarter of American women are doing something that might increase their risk of developing breast cancer by a third-in theory. The illness is fairly rare among women in the age group studied.

"It's really quite small - not to say it's zero".

Women with a family history of breast cancer may want to ask their doctors about other contraceptives, said Dr. Roshni Rao, a breast surgeon at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center. In other words, please don't freak out over the headlines this study may generate.

"If you compare this to other risks, such as obesity and being overweight, there's more of a risk with obesity than if you take a few years of oral contraceptives", Rao told Reuters Health by phone. And there's a strong suggestion they also reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. The study also suggests that forms of contraception that use the hormone progestin may be the cause for the rise.

Plus, you need to consider the fact that the pill lowers the risk of ovarian, endometrial, and colon cancer-which may affect some of the overall pros and cons of the pill.

Modern birth control pills that are lower in estrogen modestly raise the risk of breast cancer, especially with long-term use, a Danish study found.

The study was funded by the Novo Nordisk Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the Danish pharmaceutical company, and the findings were published Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Although getting cancer is uncontrollable, there are ways to try to prevent breast cancer.

Researchers from the University of Copenhagen analyzed data from 1.8 million women under the age of 50 in Denmark. Epidemiologist Lina Morch headed the study.

And the importance of allowing women to take control of their fertility and reproduction and decide if, how and when to have a baby can not be overlooked. They looked at all birth control methods that release hormones.

The National Cancer Institute estimates that 12.4 percent of women born in the United States will develop breast cancer at some time during their lives.

Birth control use for under a year had a 9 percent increased risk of breast cancer, which jumped to 38 percent if use lasted for 10 years or more, CNN reported.

"Unfortunately this was not the case and additional research is needed to tweak the formulation". But with newer, lower-dose pills, the hope was that the risk would be erased. "But we should make an individual assessment-doctor and a woman, together-to see what is the most appropriate thing for her to use".

MORCH: So it has to be balanced - the pros and cons of these contraceptives.

"We always thought that non-oral hormonal contraception like the IUD is more of a localized form and systemically didn't affect women in the same way".

NEIGHMOND: Now, it's important to note in the study, women over 40 were more likely to suffer breast cancer than younger women in their 20s and 30s.

"That is a very small extra risk".

Most breast cancers are fueled by estrogen.

"There were hopes that the new formulations would not increase a user's risk of breast cancer as the older formulations did", said Mia Gaudet, strategic director of breast and gynecologic cancer research at the American Cancer Society, who was not involved in the research.