Health Care

Birth Control Pill Tied to Slight Rise in Breast Cancer Risk

Birth Control Pill Tied to Slight Rise in Breast Cancer Risk”

The study's results, published yesterday in the New England Journal of Medicine, show not only that the danger persists in the newer formulations, but that it was also seen in other hormonal contraceptive drugs, including intrauterine devices that use progestin only.

The new study "confirms that the increased breast cancer risk. that was initially reported with the use of older, often higher-dose formulations also applies to contemporary formulations" of birth control, David Hunter, a professor of epidemiology and medicine at Oxford University's Nuffield Department of Population Health in the United Kingdom, wrote in an editorial that accompanied the study.

Women taking modern formulations of the pill have a 20 percent increased risk of breast cancer compared with those who've never been on hormonal contraception, the study of nearly 2 million Danish women found. "It's 1.3 extra cases of breast cancer per 10,000 women per year using hormonal contraception".

To put things in perspective, the overall risk posed by taking the pill for one year amounts to one extra breast cancer case for every 7,690 women aged 15 to 49, the researchers calculated.

And not only are there a wide variety of other factors that can influence an individual's risk of breast cancer-including certain genetic mutations and their family history-but using hormonal birth control may also be associated with a decreased risk of other kinds of cancers.

The 20 percent increase in breast cancer risk varied by age and how long the women used hormone-based contraceptives, including pills, contraceptive patches, vaginal rings, progestin-only implants, and injections. The researchers tracked almost 1.8 million women starting in 1995 and compared those who purchased birth control methods with women who developed breast cancer.

"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.

Two types of birth control pills are sold in the USA - one that combines synthetic versions of the hormones estrogen and progesterone, and the "minipill" that only delivers progestin, a synthetic formulation of progesterone. Exclusion criteria included women with venous thromboembolism, history of cancer excluding nonmelanoma skin cancer, and a history of infertility treatment.

Shirazian notes that for women of average risk of breast cancer, the concern is not high. "Taking a very low absolute risk and increasing it only slightly is still a relatively low risk". "That is not a huge risk increase", she told NBC News. "The risk of dying when you're pregnant is probably higher". That roughly translates to a 12 percent lifetime risk for a woman, although many factors affect breast cancer risk.

They include smoking, obesity, starting menstruation early, having children late in life or not at all and not breastfeeding.

"There was some suggestion in the paper that women might want to consider changing their contraceptive method when they get into their 40s, when their overall risk of breast cancer does start to increase".

Beyond the fact that they provide an effective means of contraception and may benefit women with menstrual cramping or abnormal menstrual bleeding, "the use of oral contraceptives is associated with substantial reductions in the risks of ovarian, endometrial, and colorectal cancers later in life".



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