Hormonal birth control linked to uptick in breast cancer cases

Hormone Contraceptives Carry Small Risk of Breast Cancer Study Finds

It's always been known that hormonal contraception, like any medicine, carries some risks.

Breast cancer is a ferocious beast. "But the same elevated risk is there".

In the research published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, a team of scientists studied 1.8 million women between the ages of 15 and 49. In the meantime, women who are using oral contraceptives might want to speak to their doctors about use before age 35 and after age 35.

"The risk of breast cancer was higher among women who now or recently used contemporary hormonal contraceptives than among women who had never used hormonal contraceptives, and this risk increased with longer durations of use; however, absolute increases in risk were small".

That may sound scary. Factors like, physical activity, breast feeding, and alcohol consumption, all of which can influence likelihood of breast cancer in women. The illness is fairly rare among women in the age group studied.

"It's really quite small - not to say it's zero".

"The benefits (against these other cancers) persists for one to two decades", he said, while breast cancer risk declines more rapidly.

Shirazian notes that for women of average risk of breast cancer, the concern is not high.

"Most of the cases that occurred in this analysis occurred among women who were using oral contraceptives in their 40s", Hunter adds.

"Oral contraceptives are like any other medication", Rao said.

"And there is also the reassuring thought that oral contraceptive use may decrease the risk of ovarian and endometrial cancer".

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Now, a new study links the use of these birth control methods to an increased risk of breast cancer in women. The foundation has ties to the Danish pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk, which primarily makes diabetes drugs and does not make contraceptives.

Although getting cancer is uncontrollable, there are ways to try to prevent breast cancer.

Every year, almost 10 million women use oral contraceptives, and about 1.5 million of them use it for reasons other than birth control. Epidemiologist Lina Morch headed the study.

The risk was associated with all forms of hormonal contraception - such as the pill, injections or IUDs - when compared with women who have never used them.

NEIGHMOND: Hormonal contraception releases estrogen, progestin or a combination of both to suppress ovulation and prevent pregnancy.

MIA GAUDET: Including the patch, the ring, the implant, as well as IUD. The researchers used nationwide registries to collect information about prescriptions that were filled for hormonal contraception, as well as diagnoses of breast cancer. "Gynecologists just assumed that a lower dose of hormone meant a lower risk of cancer". But that's not what this study found.

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

The 20 percent works out to about one extra case of breast cancer for every 8,000 women.

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.

MORCH: So it has to be balanced - the pros and cons of these contraceptives. But they stress there is no need for most women to abandon birth control pills for fear of breast cancer. What they should know, however, is that the longer they take them, the greater the chance they will develop breast cancer.

"That is a very small extra risk". There's a strong suggestion they actually reduce the risk of colorectal cancer.

Most breast cancers are fueled by estrogen. However, this new study is important because it looked at newer preparations of contraceptives, he told CNN.

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