A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine shows an increased breast cancer risk in women who use hormonal birth control. The study examined 1.8 million Danish women starting in 1995.
According to the research, for every 100,000 women using hormonal contraceptives (both estrogen and progesterone), there were 68 cases of breast cancer annually. For women who did not use hormonal birth control, that number was 55 cases a year. Researchers call this a “small but significant risk.”
Because modern contraceptives contain less of the hormone estrogen than birth control pills of previous eras, there was some hope that these methods would come with a lower breast cancer risk. However, the research shows a similar risk to clinical trials of older versions of birth control pills from the 1980s.
The Problem with Progestin
Progestin, the synthetic version of the hormone progesterone, may be a significant factor in breast cancer risk. The study found that women who had an intrauterine device (IUD) that releases progestin face a 21% increase in breast cancer risk, compared with non-users. Additionally, progestin is becoming increasingly common in contraceptives, such as IUDs and “mini pills.”
Older Women Face Higher Breast Cancer Risk
Additionally, older women have a higher risk of breast cancer than do younger women. Thus, the study suggests older women consider switching to a non-hormonal birth control method.
“It is important for women to consider all the research on contraceptives, so they can make informed decisions about their health,” said Attorney Walter Clark, founder of Walter Clark Legal Group.
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