Hormonal Contraceptives may Increase a Woman’s Risk of Breast Cancer
By Ramadhani Chambuso
The risk of breast cancer was elevated among women who used hormonal contraceptives than among women who had never used them before, a study suggests, published in December, 2017 on the top journal in human Medicine, New England Journal of Medicine.
The study was done in Denmark, followed up 1.8 million women for 10.9 years who used hormonal birth control methods and only 11,517 cases of breast cancer occurred. Furthermore, when compared with women who have never used any hormonal control pills, the risk of breast cancer increased up to 38% depending on duration of use from less than 1 year to more than 10 years in all forms of hormonal contraception methods such as the pills, injections or hormone releasing-Intra Uterine Devices (IUDs).
However, the overall absolute increased risk in breast cancers diagnosed among current and recent users of any hormonal contraceptive was 13%, approximately 1 extra breast cancer for every 7690 women using hormonal contraception for 1 year.
Although these findings sound scary, on the other hand, the risk is somehow similar to the breast cancer risk contributed by physical inactivity, excessive weight gain, or alcohol consumption. However, all these extra contributing factors for breast cancer risk were not excluded in this study.
In contrary, oral contraceptives use, prevents more cancers than it causes. For example, it is known to reduce the risk of ovarian cancer, endometrial cancer and there is a strong suggestion that they may also reduce the risk of colorectal cancer.
In my opinion, this should be weighed against the clear benefits of hormonal contraception use that go beyond the obvious advantages of preventing unwanted pregnancies. In addition, the search for new hormonal contraceptives that do not elevate breast cancer risk or use of copper IUDs should be alternatively emphasized.
Source: Mørch et al. (2017).