Pill ... No Breast Cancer Risk
Pill Is Safe
Surprise. There is no increased risk of breast cancer for women
who use the pill.
to a study reported in the June 27, 2002 New England Journal
of Medicine (NEJM, Vol. 346, No. 26: 2025-2032) there is no
evidence that oral contraceptive use increases breast cancer risk.
Researchers had questions about the "definitive" 1996
report that verified the link between breast cancer and oral contraceptives.
That report analyzed 54 studies that had been conducted over the
last 25 years. It found that past use of oral contraceptives increased
a woman's risk of developing breast cancer.
verify the past studies, Polly A. Marchbanks, PhD, and colleagues
from centers around the US, interviewed more than 9,000 women with
and without breast cancer.
At Other Factors
They did not just look at whether women had used, or were using
oral contraceptives. They asked women age 35 to 64, questions about
their education, income, exercise habits, alcohol use, and smoking
study found no evidence that oral contraceptives had any effect
on increasing the risk of breast cancer in any situation. The analysis
included type of contraceptive, age, race, and many others breast
cancer risk factors.
study found that even women with a family history of breast cancer
did not increase their risk of getting the disease by using the
study did not look at the associated risks of oral contraceptives
for women known to have either BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations. The authors
did caution that other studies have shown oral contraceptives to
increase the already high risk of breast cancer in women with BRCA
Praise The Findings
In an editorial in the same issue of the NEJM (2078-2079), Nancy
E. Davidson, MD, and Kathy J. Helzlsouer, MD, MHS, from Johns Hopkins
Medical Institutions in Baltimore praised the study.
importance of this finding for public health is enormous, because
more than 75% of the women in the study had used oral contraceptives.
No subgroup of women who used oral contraceptives had a significantly
increased risk of breast cancer. On the whole,
of this study should be reassuring to the millions of women who
take oral contraceptives," they wrote.
American Cancer Society (ACS) expert agrees. "This is good
news for women who have been concerned about the use of oral contraceptives,"
said senior epidemiologist Carmen Rodriguez, MD, MPH. "For
women who do not smoke, use of oral contraceptives seems to have
more benefits than risks, including reducing the risk of ovarian
cancer," she said.
But, the doctors noted, there are some risks for women who take
oral contraceptives. This is especially true for women over 35 years
of age who smoke and therefore have a greater chance of a heart
attack if they use oral contraceptives. But, they said, the benefits
of oral contraceptives clearly outweigh the risks.
and Helzlsouer said, "Attention should shift from concern about
the possible adverse effects of current oral contraceptives to the
identification of an ideal oral contraceptive, one that would reduce
the risk of breast, ovarian, and uterine cancer without cardiovascular
(heart and blood vessel) complications."
on the Web:
for new contraceptive option
cancer: is the Pill a threat?
Breast Cancer and the Pill
Updated April 21, 2017