Hormonal contraceptives increase breast cancer risk by 20%

11 December 2017 08:24

1.8 million women have taken part in the breast cancer study

1.8 million women have taken part in the breast cancer study

The use of hormonal contraceptives can raise a woman's chance of developing breast cancer by a fifth, new research shows.

According to a large-scale study, women who currently use certain contraceptive methods have a 20% higher risk of developing the disease than those who do not.

Huge study

Said to be the largest study of its kind, 1.8 million Danish women under the age of 50 took part in the research, spanning between 1995 and 2012.

Scientists assessed the prevalence of breast cancer in women taking hormonal contraception, compared to those not using it.

The figures show women taking hormone contraceptives - such as the progestogen-only pill, combined pill and non-oral products such as the hormone-intrauterine system (IUS) - are 20% more likely to develop the disease.

Of the patients involved in the study, 11,517 were diagnosed with new breast cancers during the research period.

Combating risk

The study was conducted by Rigshospitalet, University of Copenhagen, in collaboration with the University of Aberdeen.

The Royal College of General Practitioners' (RCGP) oral contraception study - the world's longest-running study on the effects of taking the contraceptive pill has published results this year. This research included 46,000 women for periods spanning up to 44 years.

Professor Phil Hannaford, who led the research team based in Aberdeen says: "The study found an increased risk of breast and cervical cancer in current and recent pill users, risks which disappeared within approximately five years of stopping oral contraception.

"The similar breast cancer results in both cohort studies suggest that today's pills have similar cancer risks and benefits as older preparations."

He says despite what the figures suggest, this study would imply that today's pill does not increase a woman's overall lifetime risk of cancer as a result of hormonal contraception.

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