Birth control may be putting women at risk for breast cancer

Alicia Farmer
December 7, 2017

But according to a new study, even the contraceptives with lower dosages of estrogen still come with a slightly increased chance of breast cancer.

It's a disappointment to doctors who had hoped that lower doses of hormones in both oral and non-pill contraceptives might be safer than older birth control pills. Risk seemed to increase the longer the contraceptive was used.

This study was done in Denmark, where every resident is on a register of medical visits and drug purchases.

Use of oral contraceptives may increase risk of breast cancer, although the overall absolute increase was relatively small, according to a study from Denmark.

So the message to women taking hormonal contraceptives-no need to stop immediately. Exclusion criteria included women with venous thromboembolism, history of cancer excluding nonmelanoma skin cancer, and a history of infertility treatment. The American Cancer Society says every year it's diagnosed in 200,000 women and a few men, and kills around 40,000. A study published Wednesday has linked newer-generation birth control pills with breast cancer; the link had already been established for older variants of hormonal contraception.

However, the overall absolute increase for breast cancer cases was relatively small, marked by an increased of around one new breast cancer case per 7,690 current and recent users of hormonal contraception (13 per 100,000 person-years, 95% CI 10-16).

"Unfortunately this was not the case and additional research is needed to tweak the formulation".

Despite the risk, women will continue to use the pharmaceuticals, Morch said.

The non-oral progestin-only levonorgestrel-releasing intrauterine system also showed an adjusted relative risk increase for breast cancer (1.21, 95% CI 1.11-1.33). Condoms and diaphragms do not deliver hormones.

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Because the best choice is always the informed one. "But in the study it does appear that any form is basically the same", added Dr. Taraneh Shirazian of New York University's Langone Joan H. Tisch Center for Women's Health.

"There had been some changes to oral contraceptive formulations in the '90s, and there was the hope those formulations would result in a lower risk of breast cancer", said Gaudet, who was not part of the study.

Most breast cancers are fueled by estrogen. Over the years, makers of birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy for women past menopause have reduced the amount of estrogen in their products. "The range of risks we're talking about here is much much smaller", she said.

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.

The findings held even after the researchers took into account some factors that can affect the risk of breast cancer, such as becoming pregnant or having a family history of the disease.

The paper did not make any note of whether birth control impacted mortality from breast cancer, Leath noted.

The findings of alink between hormonal contraception and breast cancer is not new; studies going back decades have suggested that the hormones in birth control could raise the risk of breast cancer.

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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