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Birth control pills and breast cancer

Modern contraceptive pills are very effective and popular in most countries. Birth control pills are already used during last 50-55 years in various countries of the world. Scientists already made several surveys for discovering long-term effects of the most modern and popular method of contraception. During last decade some researchers have noted links between the intake of birth control pills and risks of developing breast cancer. Birth control pills and breast cancer is the subject of comprehensive scientific studies not only in pharmaceutical industry but also in several research centers.

Enough time has passed since the introduction of first generation of birth control pills. Nowadays it is possible to study large number of women who used birth control pills for contraceptive purposes during many years.

Some studies have shown an increased risk of breast cancer in women taking birth control pills, while other studies have shown no change in risk. Birth control pills and breast cancer – is there a connection?

Birth control pills and breast cancer – How do Birth control pills affect breast cancer risk?

A woman’s risk of developing breast cancer depends on several factors, some of which are related to her natural hormones. Hormonal factors that increase the risk of breast cancer include conditions that may allow high levels of hormones to persist for long periods of time, such as beginning menstruation at an early age (before age 12), experiencing menopause at a late age (after age 55), having a first child after age 30, and not having children at all.

Birth control pills and breast cancer

A 1996 analysis of worldwide epidemiological data conducted by the Collaborative Group on Hormonal Factors in Breast Cancer found that women who were current or recent users of birth control pills had a slightly elevated risk of developing breast cancer. The risk was highest for women who started using OCs as teenagers. However, 10 or more years after women stopped using pills, their risk of developing breast cancer returned to the same level as if they had never used birth control pills, regardless of family history of breast cancer, reproductive history, geographic area of residence, ethnic background, differences in study design, dose and type of hormone, or duration of use. In addition, breast cancers diagnosed in women after 10 or more years of not using pills were less advanced than breast cancers diagnosed in women who had never used pills.

The findings of the Women’s Contraceptive and Reproductive Experiences (Women’s CARE) study were in contrast to those described above. The Women’s CARE study examined the use of pills as a risk factor for breast cancer in women ages 35 to 64. Investigators collected detailed information about the participants’ use of pills, reproductive history, health, and family history. The results, which were published in 2002, indicated that current or former use of pills did not significantly increase the risk of breast cancer. The findings were similar for white and black women. Factors such as longer periods of use, higher doses of estrogen, initiation of pills use before age 20, and pills use by women with a family history of breast cancer were not associated with an increased risk of the disease.

In a National Cancer Institute (NCI)-sponsored study published in 2003, researchers examined risk factors for breast cancer among women ages 20 to 34 compared with women ages 35 to 54. Women diagnosed with breast cancer were asked whether they had used pills for more than 6 months before diagnosis and, if so, whether the most recent use had been within 5 years, 5 to 10 years, or more than 10 years. The results indicated that the risk was highest for women who used pills within 5 years prior to diagnosis, particularly in the younger group.

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