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Some birth control raises risk of breast cancer, study says

07 December 2017, 09:05 | Winifred Adams

Some birth control raises risk of breast cancer, study says

Even New Birth Control Pills May Raise Women's Breast Cancer Risk

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 6, 2017 (HealthDay News) - Newer versions of the birth control pill carry a similar increased risk of breast cancer as earlier ones that were abandoned in the 1990s, a new study reveals.

What really surprised the researchers was that the increased risk was not confined to women using oral contraceptive pills, but also was seen in women using implanted intrauterine devices, or IUDs, that contain the hormone progestin.

A large study in Denmark found using hormone based contraceptives for at least five years increases the risk for breast cancer by 20 percent.

The bottom line is that before starting or continuing to take hormonal contraceptives - or any medications - it's important to speak with your doctor about any potential risks and benefits, and make an informed decision from there.

What those numbers mean in terms of actual women getting breast cancer who otherwise may not have is a bit less striking: there was about one extra breast cancer case diagnosed for every 7690 women who used hormonal contraception for a year.

The study also found that the risk increased the longer women used contraceptives involving hormones, suggesting the relationship is causal, Mørch said.

And not only are there a wide variety of other factors that can influence an individual's risk of breast cancer-including certain genetic mutations and their family history-but using hormonal birth control may also be associated with a decreased risk of other kinds of cancers.

One thing reiterated by every doctor Newsweek spoke to: Women who are anxious about how their contraception might increase their risk of breast cancer should speak with their health care provider. Most cases of breast cancer were seen in women using oral contraceptives in their 40s.

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The new study looked at all women in Denmark ages 15 to 49 who had not had cancer, clots in their veins, or treatment for infertility.

Despite the risk, women will continue to use the pharmaceuticals, Morch said. According to an editorial that accompanied the study in NEJM, birth control may actually be protective against cancer on the whole despite this increased risk for one type.

Once women stopped using these forms of birth control, the increased risk of breast cancer disappeared if the women had used hormonal contraception for less than five years.

The new study was published December 7 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

"No type of hormone contraceptive is risk-free unfortunately", said lead author Lina Morch of Copenhagen University Hospital. After all, it means that almost a quarter of American women are doing something that might increase their risk of developing breast cancer by a third-in theory. About 40,000 women died of breast cancer in 2017.

Still, the researchers noted that any unaccounted factors would need to have a large effect on the risk of breast cancer and be very common in the population to explain the results. "Taking a very low absolute risk and increasing it only slightly is still a relatively low risk". The findings indicate that the hormone progestin is adding to breast cancer risk; some of the contraceptive pills and numerous IUDs included only progestin, Mørch said. For a 20-year-old woman, for example, the probability of developing breast cancer in the next 10 years is 0.06 per cent, or 1 in 1,732, according to breastcancer.org.

Morch's team pored through years of electronic health records collected by the Danish health system, using prescription data to identify which women had taken the drugs and then track their health outcomes.

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



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