The pill and breast cancer: an increased risk

The pill, or hormonal birth control, can increase the risk of developing breast cancer. This may vary depending on the type of contraception used. As usual, you have to weigh the pros and cons. For example, hormonal contraception can prevent unwanted pregnancies and protect against other cancers.

There appears to be a link between hormonal birth control and a small increase in breast cancer risk. This may be because oral contraceptives use hormones to prevent people from getting pregnant, which can overstimulate breast cells and increase the risk of breast cancer.

However, there are other types of birth control besides hormonal contraception. A woman can prevent unwanted pregnancies without increasing her risk of breast cancer.
That said, hormonal contraception may have some health benefits, such as a reduced risk of ovarian cysts and other types of cancer.

This article examines the links between the pill and breast cancer. It will also explain the different aspects of hormonal contraception and provide some alternatives to hormonal contraception for people worried about its risks. It also provides information on other breast cancer risk factors.

How much does the pill increase the risk of breast cancer?

According to a 2017 study, hormonal birth control may slightly increase a person’s risk of breast cancer. The study looked at 1.8 million women in Denmark, aged 15 to 49. The women had not had cancer or received fertility treatment. The researchers found that participants using hormonal contraception had a slightly higher risk of developing breast cancer than those who did not. This means that approximately 1 in 7,690 participants developed breast cancer. However, the researchers noted that other factors, including age, can affect the risk of developing breast cancer.

Participants under the age of 35 had a lower risk of developing breast cancer. Among women who had used hormonal contraception for a year, only one in 50,000 participants developed breast cancer. When a woman stops taking hormonal birth control, her risk of breast cancer seems to return to normal after about 5 years.

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Overall, the risk of breast cancer was higher in women who currently use or have recently used contemporary hormonal contraceptives than in those who have never used hormonal contraceptives. This risk increases with duration of use.

Triphasic pill: more at risk

The triphasic pill is a type of multiphasic pill. It changes the dose of hormones three times depending on the person’s cycle. Monophasic pills, on the other hand, use the same amount of hormones throughout the cycle. A 2010 study followed 116,000 nurses between the ages of 24 and 43. The study began in 1989. It revealed a slight increase in the risk of breast cancer. This risk mainly concerned people taking the three-phase pill. Another study, this time from 2014, supported a link between the triphasic pill and an elevated risk of breast cancer.

Triphasic pills are still available, but have fallen out of favor in recent years. People using these pills should speak with a doctor if they have any concerns about their risk of cancer.

Can a woman with breast cancer use contraception?

People with breast cancer may wish to avoid using birth control pills or hormonal intrauterine devices (IUDs). Indeed, these methods can affect the growth of tumor cells in people with hormone-sensitive cancers, such as breast cancer. However, there are many non-hormonal alternatives that a person with breast cancer can use.

Alternative options to the pill

If a woman is concerned about the slightly elevated risk of breast cancer associated with hormonal birth control or if she needs to avoid it because she has breast cancer, she can consider the following options:

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Barrier methods

A safe alternative to hormonal birth control could be one of many forms of a barrier method, including:
– condoms
– diaphragm
– spermicide
– Non-hormonal IUD: A non-hormonal IUD can help a woman avoid pregnancy without increasing the risk of breast cancer.
– Permanent contraceptive surgery: If a woman is sure she does not want to have children, she can explore the permanent surgical options that are available to those seeking alternatives to more temporary forms of birth control. Similarly, a man may consider a vasectomy.

Some forms of birth control can actually reduce the risk of certain cancers in women. For example, a 2013 systematic review found that oral contraception can reduce a person’s risk of:

– ovarian cancer
– endometrial cancer
– Colon Cancer
Therefore, the overall cancer risk may be lower in people who take hormonal birth control, despite the slightly increased risk of breast cancer it may bring.

The health benefits of the pill

Oral contraceptives may also have other health benefits, including:

– a more regular menstrual cycle
– a reduction in the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome
– a reduction in the risk of ovarian cysts
– a reduction in the symptoms of endometriosis
– a reduction in the symptoms of perimenopause
– a possible improvement of acne

Breast cancer risk factors

Here are some factors that increase the risk of breast cancer:

– Hereditary risks: Risks related to family history include mutations in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes.
– Advanced age: Age is the main risk factor for breast cancer. The risk increases with advancing age.
– Personal history of breast cancer and breast cancer treatment: A person may be at higher risk of breast cancer if they have ever had:
invasive breast cancer
ductal carcinoma in situ
lobular carcinoma in situ
benign breast disease
radiation therapy to the chest or breast
– medications for menopause: A woman using hormone replacement therapy for menopausal symptoms may have a slightly higher risk of developing breast cancer.

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Breast cancer prevention

Women can take certain steps to prevent general cancer risk factors, such as:

– stop smoking, if necessary
– maintain a moderate weight
– exercise regularly, if possible
– follow a healthy diet

It is therefore not easy to choose between the benefits and the risks of the pill. However, for women at higher risk of breast cancer and those who already have breast cancer or who have already recovered from it, they can use non-hormonal methods of contraception, such as barrier methods, non-steroidal intrauterine devices. hormones or permanent options like surgery.


Beaber, EF, et al. (2014). Recent oral contraceptive use by formulation and breast cancer risk among women 20 to 49 years of age [Abstract].

Do hormonal contraceptives increase breast cancer risk? (2017).

Gierisch, JM, et al. (2013). Oral contraceptive use and risk of breast, cervical, colorectal, and endometrial cancers: A systematic review [Abstract].

Hormonal contraception and the risk of breast cancer. (2018).

Hunter, DJ, et al. (2010). Oral contraceptive use and breast cancer: A prospective study of young women [Abstract].

Morch, LS, et al. (2017). Contemporary hormonal contraception and the risk of breast cancer.

Nathan-Garner, L., et al. (2016) The pill and cancer: Is there a link?

Pernambuco-Holsten, C. (2018). Birth control and cancer risk: 6 things you should know.


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