Study Upends Widely Held Assumptions About Safety Of Modern Birth Control Pill
A wide-ranging study finds that women who use birth control pills or other contraceptive devices that release hormones, despite being designed to be safer than older versions, show a small increase in breast cancer risk.
The New York Times:
Birth Control Pills Still Linked To Breast Cancer, Study Finds
Women who rely on birth control pills or contraceptive devices that release hormones face a small but significant increase in the risk for breast cancer, according to a large study published on Wednesday. The study, which followed 1.8 million Danish women for more than a decade, upends widely held assumptions about modern contraceptives for younger generations of women. Many women have believed that newer hormonal contraceptives are much safer than those taken by their mothers or grandmothers, which had higher doses of estrogen. (Rabin, 12/6)
Even Low-Dose Contraceptives Slightly Increase Breast Cancer Risk
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. They were looking to see what happened over a stretch of nearly 11 years among women who used hormonal birth control — usually a combination of estrogen and progestin — versus women who relied on non-hormonal contraceptive methods, such as a condom, diaphragm or copper IUD. Unlike most previous research, this study didn't just track the effect of birth control pills. 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. (Neighmond, 12/6)
Those Newer Birth Control Pills Don’t Lower Cancer Risk
While contraceptive drugs that contain estrogen have long been suspected of increasing the likelihood of breast cancer, researchers had expected smaller doses of the hormone, often combined with the drug progestin, would be safer, said Lina Morch, an epidemiologist at Copenhagen University Hospital who led a study analyzing the records of 1.8 million women in Denmark. (Lauerman, 12/6)
The Philadelphia Inquirer/Philly.com:
The Pill Comes With A Small Risk Of Breast Cancer: How Worried Should Women Be?
“It’s almost a default, putting young women on the pill, without too much thought,” said Weiss, who is a breast cancer survivor. “While the increased breast cancer risk is not that huge, it has a significant public health impact” because so many young women use hormonal birth control. “I think [the new study] is a wake-up call for the ob-gyn world.” (McCullough, 12/6)