Hormonal Contraception & Breast Cancer

Hormonal contraceptives, known as birth control, are widely used by women for their contraceptive benefits. However, understanding the potential link between contraceptives and breast cancer risk is vital.

While relatively small, we want to help you understand the associated risks and remain vigilant about your breast health so you can make informed decisions about your reproductive choices.

Understanding the Link: Oral Contraceptives and Non-BRCA Genetic Mutation Cases

Recent research shows that while oral contraceptives do not cause breast cancer, there is an increase in breast cancer risk of 20% to 30% among women who use any contraceptives, regardless of whether that’s a combined (oestrogen and progestogen) oral pill, a progestogen-only oral pill, an injected progestogen, or a progestogen-releasing intra-uterine device (IUD). Though there is an increase in risk, the overall risk remains lower than other factors such as age, environment, gender and family history.

These studies also report that the risk of breast cancer appears to increase with the duration of oral contraceptive use but decreases over time once a woman stops using the contraceptive, with no risk increase evident after ten years of discontinued use.

Contraceptives are also reported to slightly increase cervical cancer while decreasing the risk of endometrial and ovarian cancer in some women.

Genetic Mutation and Oral Contraceptives

Research shows that women with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 genetic mutation who use oral contraceptives do not appear to face a significant additional increase in breast cancer risk beyond the existing elevated risk linked to the genetic mutation. Interestingly, in certain cases of BRCA genetic mutations, birth control might even provide some protection against ovarian cancer.

Vigilance and early detection

Though contraceptive benefits seem to outweigh the risks in some cases, it still highlights the significance of proactive breast health awareness among women using them. Birth control use should be considered based on your health needs and preferences.

We encourage you to be vigilant about your breast health, perform regular self-breast checks, undergo clinical breast exams and mammograms, and check in with your doctor when you notice any abnormal changes.

Confident conversations with healthcare providers

Women considering or using contraceptives should have open discussions with their healthcare providers about their medical history, family history of breast cancer, and other potential risk factors. This helps your doctor understand your risk and can help you make the most suitable contraceptive choices and breast health strategies.

Many oral contraceptives are also known to cause dense breast tissue, making mammogram results challenging to interpret, so it’s important to mention this when booking your next breast screen.

Breast check reminder

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