New research has been released about the possible connection of birth control pills increasing a woman’s chance of getting breast cancer. Researchers at Fred Hutchinson and Group Health suggest the risk may depend more on the dosage.
“I was having periods twice a month they were lasting 10-12 days each time."
This woman is exactly the type of patient who could benefit from high dose birth control pills to control excess bleeding. But there’s a trade off.
“We found that higher dose estrogen pills were associated with an increased risk of breast cancer,” said Fred Hutchinson researcher Dr. Elisabeth Beaber.
Beaber and her colleagues looked that the medical records of more than a thousand women with breast cancer and the kind of contraception they were using the year prior to diagnosis. Then they compared those results to 22,000 healthy women.
The good news?
“The oral contraceptives with a low estrogen dose did not appear to be associated with risk,” said Dr. Beaber.
Low dose pills contain 20 micrograms of estrogen; 30-35 is average and 50 micrograms is considered high dose. But is it the exception rather than the rule? Even for those women taking the high doses, when they stopped, the risk went away.
Dr. Beaber says she wants women to keep the findings in perspective.
“Breast cancer is rare among young women. The women in our study were ages 20-49. And also it should be kept in mind that there are established benefits with oral contraceptive use,” said Dr. Beaber.
Birth control pills can slash you risk of endometrial and ovarian cancer. They can also protect against endometriosis.
Unlike previous studies, the researchers were able to access pharmaceutical records, not just relying on self reporting. But the study also has limitations. It did not look at the effects of long-term use of birth control and what role that plays in breast cancer risk.
This is only the first study to link dosage with risk. So until more research is done, the best choice is the one you make with your doctor.