The fear of hormonal birth control causing cancer is a significant reason why many women decide against this method. But how much truth is to this belief? And what about the benefits some are rumored to have? I did some research on PubMed and read a few scientific studies on this topic, and here is what I found.

In regards to the link between oral contraception and breast cancer, a study published in April 1994 by White et al. concluded the following from their study: “Long-term oral contraceptive use among young women or use beginning near menarche may be associated with a small excess breast cancer risk, possibly due to susceptibility to genetic damage in breast epithelial cells at ages of high breast cell proliferative activity.”

I found a more recent study published in June 2010 by Cibula et al. that looked at many English studies on this topic up to December 2008. Here is a summary of what they found:

* Data about breast cancer risk indicate a slightly increased risk among current users of oral contraceptives, an effect which disappears 5-10 years after stopping.

* Combined oral contraceptives have a significant protective effect on the risk of ovarian cancer, and the protection increases with duration of use (relative risk decreased by 20% for each 5 years of use)

* The risk of endometrial cancer is reduced by about 50% in ever users, a benefit which is greater with increasing duration of use.

* An association has been found between increased risk of cervical cancer and long-term OC use.

* Current OC use has been associated with an excess risk of benign liver tumours and a modest increased risk of liver cancer.

After looking at the other large studies, they concluded that an overall risk of cancer and death have not been linked to OC use, and some may have important health benefits. According to the researchers, “Women wishing to use combined OC can be reassured that their decision is unlikely to place them at higher risk of developing cancer.” Good news for OC users!

By: Kristianne Meisels

About the Author:
See my blog, Women’s Health Daily, for more info.

Hormonal contraception and risk of cancer.

Cibula D, Gompel A, Mueck AO, La Vecchia C, Hannaford PC, Skouby SO, Zikan M, Dusek L.

Oncogynecological Centre, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, General Teaching Hospital in Prague, First Medical School, Charles University, Apolinarska 18, Prague, Czech Republic.

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