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Does the Pill increase your risk of breast cancer?

Contraceptive pills with a high level of oestrogen are linked to an increased risk of breast cancer, according to new research. What does this mean for you if you’re currently taking the Pill?

Taking certain types of contraceptive pills in the past year may give you a greater chance of developing breast cancer than someone who either has never taken the Pill or has taken it in the past.

In a study of 23,502 women — including 1,102 who were diagnosed with breast cancer — Seattle-based researchers found that recent oral contraceptive use increased breast cancer risk by as much as 50 per cent.

The contraceptive pills associated with the increased risk contained high-dose oestrogen. A lesser risk was seen with moderate-dose oestrogen.

Pills containing ethynodiol diacetate and triphasic combination pills containing an average of 0.75 milligrams of norethindrone also increased the risk.

The study was funded by the National Cancer Institute and was published in the journal, Cancer Research.

Is your Pill high-risk?

If you’re madly checking your Pill packet right now, it’s not panic stations yet.

According to the lead study author, Elisabeth Beaber, PhD, who’s a staff scientist at the Public Health Sciences Division of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, the results require confirmation and should be interpreted cautiously.

“Breast cancer is rare among young women and there are numerous established health benefits associated with oral contraceptive use that must be considered. In addition, prior studies suggest that the increased risk associated with recent oral contraceptive use declines after stopping oral contraceptives,” Beaber said.

Alternatives to the Pill

If the suggested link between the Pill and breast cancer is enough to turn you off, there are plenty of other contraception options available, like:

  • male and female condoms
  • vaginal rings
  • implants
  • injections
  • intrauterine devices
  • sterilisation
  • withdrawal method

If you’re considering changing your contraception, you’ll need to think long and hard about a solution that best suits your health, lifestyle and relationship.

These days, women take the Pill for many reasons: to regulate their periods, lighten their flow, have less painful periods and clear up skin troubles, such as acne.

Talk to your doctor about some of the alternative options available if you’ve been taking the Pill for a non-contraceptive purpose and are thinking about ditching it.

More on the Pill and hormones

Should you ditch the Pill after kids?
Does the Pill make you jealous?
Managing PMS naturally

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