Study: Modern birth control pills also increase the risk of breast cancer

Study: Modern birth control pills also increase the risk of breast cancer

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Do the disadvantages of taking the contraceptive pill outweigh its advantages?

Today there are modern birth control pills that contain less estrogen. While these unwanted pregnancy pills have fewer side effects than previous oral contraceptives, they still seem to increase the risk of developing breast cancer. This is especially true if they are used over the long term.

The doctors at Copenhagen University Hospital found that modern birth control pills contain less estrogen and produce fewer side effects, but still increase the risk of breast cancer moderately, especially after long-term use. The experts published the results of their study in the English-language journal "New England Journal of Medicine".

Do other hormonal contraceptives increase the risk of breast cancer?

Taking the birth control pill leads to a moderate increase in the risk of developing breast cancer. According to the researchers, such an increased risk cannot be ruled out for other hormonal contraceptives, such as plasters or implants.

Women should weigh the risks and benefits of taking the pill

However, the increased risk resulting from the intake is only slight, the doctors report. There is an additional case of breast cancer among 7,700 women who use the birth control pill as a contraceptive. The scientists explained that women should carefully weigh the risks and benefits of taking the pill, including reducing the risk of other types of cancer. Hormonal contraception can still be seen as a safe and effective option for family planning, the experts say. However, women have other options for contraception or they can talk to their partners about a vasectomy.

New contraceptives should actually lower the risk of breast cancer

Studies of older birth control pills have shown that while they reduce the risk of cancer of the uterus and ovaries, they also increase the risk of breast cancer. Physicians were actually optimistic that the newer, low-dose contraceptives would lower the risk of breast cancer. The results of the current investigation have now dashed hope.

Doctors examine the data of 1.8 million women for their study

A total of around 140 million women use some form of hormonal contraception. For their investigation, the researchers analyzed the health records of a total of 1.8 million women in Denmark, all of whom were between the ages of 15 and 49. In Denmark, the national health system enables large databases to be linked to prescription history, cancer diagnoses and other information.

How high is the risk of breast cancer from taking the birth control pill?

The current use of hormonal contraceptives is associated with an approximately 20 percent increased risk of breast cancer, the researchers say. This risk increases further with prolonged use - from an increase in risk of around nine percent when used for less than one year to an increase of 38 percent after use for more than ten years, the doctors explain.

No type of hormone contraceptive is risk free

The doctors found no differences between the types of birth control pills. Due to the smaller number of users, the results for the patch, the contraceptive ring, the implant and the progestogen intake were less clear, the experts explain. Nevertheless, the current analysis did not rule out an increased risk of breast cancer for these methods. Unfortunately, no type of hormone contraceptive is risk-free, says study author Lina Morch from Copenhagen University Hospital.

The physicians could not take into account all known risk factors

The researchers considered the level of education, births and the history of breast cancer in the family. However, they were unable to include other known risk factors for cancer, such as alcohol consumption and reduced physical activity. Protective factors such as breastfeeding were also not taken into account in the study. (as)

Author and source information

Video: The latest link between hormonal contraceptives and breast cancer (August 2022).