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Hormonal Contraception and Cancer Risk

27 Sep 2019 by Krystal Barter
Hormonal Contraception and Cancer Risk

You may be wondering about whether it is safe to use the oral contraceptive pill (OCP) or other types of hormonal contraceptives (such as implanted, mini pill or injectable hormones) given you are at a high lifetime risk of breast cancer.

The Facts

Studies vary in their results. Some show no increase in breast cancer risk for women who use the OCP while others show a slight increase in risk. Because the baseline risk in this decade is low (even for women with a BRCA mutation), a slight increase in breast cancer risk would still leave a woman at low risk at this age. There is no one safe type of hormonal contraceptive to use.

Use of the OCP for 5 years or more actually reduces ovarian cancer risk but not to the extent it is recommended for this purpose (Kotsopoulos J, 2015; McLaughlin, 2007). Even, if you have used the OCP, women at high lifetime risk of ovarian cancer are currently still recommended to consider surgery to remove their ovaries and fallopian tubes at around age 40.

Making a Decision

You may want to find out what your risk of breast cancer might be in the next 10 years and how taking or using a hormonal contraceptive will increase your risk. In addition you may want to consider the reasons for using it, as using it for effective contraception can be a very valid reason. It is also helpful to discuss with your doctor whether there are other suitable alternatives.

Women Who Use Hormonal Contraceptive

If you decide to use a hormonal contraceptive, it is advised you review that decision particularly if your situation or reason to use it changes.

If you carry a BRCA gene mutation it is advised you review its use when you enter your 30s. This is because the risk of breast cancer is beginning to rise.

If you have no defined hereditary cause it is advised to seek further advice from your Breast Surgeon or Familial Cancer Clinic when you enter your 30’s to help evaluate the risks associated with a continued use.

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