The birth control pill is one of the most reliable contraceptives when used correctly. Many women use them to avoid an unwanted pregnancy. However, the pill is not completely safe. In addition to increasing the risk of embolism and thrombosis, it should now increase the risk of breast cancer by 25% on average. A recent Oxford University study confirms this. Not only the traditional combined birth control pill containing estrogen and progestin, but also pure progestin pills, known as mini-pills, should increase the risk of developing breast cancer.
All hormonal contraceptives increase the risk of breast cancer.
Researchers analyzed data from 9,498 women aged 20–49 with breast cancer and 18,171 other healthy women. Results showed that 44% of women with breast cancer had received a prescription for a hormonal contraceptive three years prior to diagnosis. Women without breast cancer were 39 percent more likely to have taken combined estrogen and progestin preparations as well as progestin-only pills. All preparations increased the risk of breast cancer by 23–32 percent.
A reason to panic? An expert clarifies the results.
The combination pill, consisting of estrogen and progestin, slightly increases the risk of breast cancer, but this is less dramatic than it may seem. Women of childbearing age naturally have a low risk of developing breast cancer, so the 20% increase in an already low risk still means a very low probability.
Researchers advise: see risk and benefit in relation
25-year-old women have a 0.4 percent risk of breast cancer, but a 20 percent increase in risk means 4.8 out of 1,000 will develop it. The contraceptive effect and proven risk reduction for other cancers must be taken into account.
Researchers advise women not to stop taking the pill out of fear, as other factors such as obesity and smoking have a greater impact on whether they develop breast cancer. Age also plays a major role, with most women diagnosed between the ages of 50 and 70.
Risk regulates itself again after stopping the pill.
Studies have shown that five years after stopping the pill, the risk of breast cancer is back to normal. Women should do regular self-examinations and have a gynecological checkup once a year. A tumor usually becomes apparent when women feel their breasts and is only detectable if it is one centimeter in diameter.