Study Finds that Hormonal Birth Control Increases Breast Cancer Risk

Study Finds that Hormonal Birth Control Increases Breast Cancer Risk

For decades, researchers have studied how hormonal birth control affects the risk of developing breast cancer.

The results of numerous studies over the years suggest that estrogen and progesterone-containing birth control methods might slightly increase the risk of getting diagnosed with breast cancer in the future.

The risk connected to progestogen-only contraceptives, the use of which has significantly increased recently, is, however, being made clear by new research.

According to a recent study from Oxford Population Health’s Cancer Epidemiology Unit, using hormonal contraceptives that only contain progestogens is linked to a 20-30 percent higher risk of breast cancer.

Data from 18,171 women without breast cancer who served as the control group and 9,498 other women who got diagnosed with invasive breast cancer between the ages of 20 and 49 years old were analyzed.

Clinical Practice Research Datalink (CPRD) was responsible for gathering the information.

It was found that 44 percent of the women with breast cancer and 39 percent of the healthy women included in the study had a prescription for hormonal contraceptives 3 years on average before diagnosis, with about half of them receiving a progestogen-only contraceptive.

The research team discovered that using hormonal contraceptives, regardless of the type, significantly increased the risk of developing breast cancer.

Women who took combined pills had a risk increase of 23 percent, and progestogen-only pill users had a risk increase of 26 percent.

Progestogen injection users had a risk increase of 25 percent, and progestogen-releasing IUD users had a risk increase of 32 percent.

The greater risk of cancer linked to the use of oral contraceptives decreased after stopping contraceptive use, with the risk dropping to half 5 or more years after ceasing treatment.

Additionally, it was discovered that using birth control as women aged increased their risk of developing breast cancer.

According to the researchers’ estimates, women who used oral contraceptives for at least 5 years had a risk of developing breast cancer over a 15 year period ranging from 0.008 percent for use between the ages of 16 to 20 to 0.265 percent for use between the ages of 35 and 39.

One of the study’s lead authors, Kirstin Pirie, says that “The findings say that current or recent use of all types of progestogen only contraceptives is associated with an increase in breast cancer risk, similar to that linked to the use of combined oral contraceptives.”

According to her, the risk of breast cancer connected with any kind of oral contraceptive will be lower in women who take it at earlier ages because the overall risk of acquiring breast cancer rises with age.

“These risks must, however, be perceived in the context of the well established benefits of contraceptive usage in women’s reproductive years,” she added.

Dr. Banks claims that women in the age range most likely to take hormonal contraception have a very low chance of developing breast cancer.

“This study confirmed what we already know—that the risk of breast cancer among those who take hormonal contraceptives is really low.”

According to Dr. Jones, there are both individual, hereditary, and environmental variables at work for women who are already at elevated risk of breast cancer.

“Having had entered puberty early, or menopause late; Having history of breast biopsies; Having history of breast cancer in the family; are all significant risk factors to consider.”

At the end of the day, Dr. Peddi stresses that “We are not saying don’t use it, but we’re saying do not just use progestogen only options if you think that one type is better than the other. All of them have breast cancer risk. Choose the one that is right for you by discussing with your doctor. The older a woman who uses it is, they should also be aware procedures like a vasectomy or tubal ligation may be safer options to avoiding pregnancy, especially in higher risk women.”


Katherine is just getting her start as a journalist. She attended a technical school while still in high school where she learned a variety of skills, from photography to nutrition. Her enthusiasm for both natural and human sciences is real so she particularly enjoys covering topics on medicine and the environment.

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