Hormonal contraceptives, like the pill, have come a long way from the options available when they were first introduced in 1960. But a new study has revealed that even birth control with lower doses of oestrogen still come with a slightly increased breast cancer risk.
The research, from the University of Copenhagen and published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that people using hormonal birth control methods – including the ring, intrauterine device (IUD) and the pill – experienced a 20% increase in the relative risk of developing breast cancer compared to those who did not use hormonal contraceptives.
But the overall increased risk was very small, amounting to one extra case of breast cancer among 7,700 women using such contraceptives per year.
And experts who reviewed the research are now urging women to balance the news against known benefits of the pill – including lowering the risk of other cancers.
The researchers are now hoping the results of the study will encourage doctors to increase their discussion of the risks and benefits of the drugs before prescribing them.
Though the study team say the absolute risk of mood disorders and cancer for women taking hormone contraceptives is small, it warrants a great analysis with women about their own personal risk.
Women with a history of mood disorders and depression, for example, or a family history of these conditions, should be evaluated more closely after being prescribed a hormonal contraceptive.
Likewise, women at higher risk of breast cancer because of a family history of the disease, should have a more in-depth discussion with their doctor about their individual circumstances.
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