Medical

Birth control linked to 20% higher risk of breast cancer

Birth control linked to 20% higher risk of breast cancer

A study published Wednesday has linked newer-generation birth control pills with breast cancer; the link had already been established for older variants of hormonal contraception. Among those who used hormones for five years, an increased breast cancer risk persisted even after they discontinued use, Mørch said. But the absolute risk for developing breast cancer for most women is extremely low. A 20 percent increase translates into only one extra breast cancer case for almost every 8,000 women. Because their set of data was very large, scientists this time were also able to get a good sense of the impact of various other hormonal methods - including the birth control patch, the ring, and implants as well as hormone-releasing IUDs.

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.

Weiss added that although the increased risk is small, it is measurable, and when you consider the number of people taking hormonal birth control (approximately 140 million people worldwide, including about 16 million in the United States) it amounts to a "significant public health concern".

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Compared to what the group of researchers found in one of their other papers-that using hormonal contraception was associated with a 300 percent increase in suicide risk-"it is a modest increase", said Dr. Øjvind Lidegaard, one of the authors of the paper and a gynecologist at the University of Copenhagen. The study used an average of 10 years of data from more than 1.8 million Danish women.

The idea that there is a link between hormonal contraceptive use and breast cancer is not new. But he suggested doctors take time to discuss the pros and cons of different types of contraception with their patients, and that they be frank about the potential risks, suggesting women reassess hormone use as they age. Mia Gaudet with the American Cancer Society says the findings are compelling because researchers didn't just look at the birth control pill. Yet the new study found increased risks that were similar in magnitude to the heightened risks reported in earlier studies based on birth control pills used in the 1980s and earlier, Hunter 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. What they should know, however, is that the longer they take them, the greater the chance they will develop breast cancer. So this tells us that things haven't changed. Still, the additional risk would result in a comparatively few additional cases of breast cancer, the researchers said. About 40,000 women died of breast cancer in 2017. There's a strong suggestion they actually reduce the risk of colorectal cancer.

NEIGHMOND: Hunter says the search for new hormonal contraceptives that don't elevate breast cancer risk should continue.