When it comes to a connection between hormone contraceptives and breast cancer, there seems little for women to worry about, according to a recent study.
Dr. Sapna Khubchandani, an oncologist and breast health specialist with Hartford HealthCare Medical Group Oncology and Hematology in Waterford, says the study published in the New England Journal of Medicine shows the connection to be minimal.
“About 140 million women worldwide use hormonal contraception,” she says, “but there is very little data associating it with breast cancer, especially the newer hormonal contraceptives containing low-dose estrogen and progesterone.”
While previous studies of women on a combination of estrogen and progesterone offered inconsistent results — increases in breast cancer risk ranged from none to about 30 percent — Khubchandani says there has been hardly any data on the same risk related to the use of pills containing just progesterone or non-oral contraception like vaginal rings, IUDs or implants using only progesterone.
The article in the New England Journal of Medicine focused on a prospective cohort study in which 1.8 million women ages 15-49 taking hormonal contraception were followed for about 10 years. As compared to women who had never taken hormonal contraceptives, the relative risk of breast cancer among women in the study increased just 1.20 times with the medication.
The risk of breast cancer did increase the longer a woman took the hormonal contraception – from a relative risk increase of 1.09 in the first year of use to 1.38 after more than 10 years of use. Among the women who used hormonal contraception for more than five years, the risk remained high for atleast five years after stopping the drug.
“We believe that it is still safe for women to take oral contraceptives with low-dose estrogen and progesterone as it seems to minimally increase their risk of developing breast cancer,” says Khubchandani.
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