Many modern contraceptives still linked to breast cancer

Many modern contraceptives still linked to breast cancer

And not only are there a wide variety of other factors that can influence an individual's risk of breast cancer-including certain genetic mutations and their family history-but using hormonal birth control may also be associated with a decreased risk of other kinds of cancers.

"In the 1980s and 1990s, there was some optimism regarding the development of a formulation that would reduce a woman's risk of breast cancer", he said in the commentary, "but research into this possibility appears to have stalled".

"I don't think anyone's going to say stop taking oral contraceptives". "Thus, it is not exclusively estrogen that increases the risk of breast cancer".

About 140 million women use some type of hormonal contraception, including about 16 million in the United States.

The study, which followed 1.8 million Danish women for more than a decade, upends widely held assumptions about modern contraceptives for younger generations of women.

Specifically, the study found that it may be the hormone progestin - a key component of many of today's hormonal contraceptives - that is behind the breast cancer risk.

"No one should take (oral contraceptives) without careful thought, but the advantages in avoiding an unwanted pregnancy will usually more than outweigh the very slightly increased risk of breast cancer", said Ashley Grossman, emeritus professor of endocrinologyat Britain's University of Oxford.

He also added the risks associated with hormonal contraception must be weighed against the benefits. Women who used any form hormonal contraception for more than 10 years (1.38, 95% CI 1.26-1.51) had a higher risk compared to those who reported less than 1 year of use (1.09, 95% CI 0.96-1.23)(P=0.002), they wrote online in the New England Journal of Medicine. The study used an average of 10 years of data from more than 1.8 million Danish women.

First, the study didn't factor in other variables like diet, physical activity, breastfeeding or alcohol consumption, which could also have an impact on developing breast cancer.

What really surprised the researchers was that the increased risk was not confined to women using oral contraceptive pills, but also was seen in women using implanted intrauterine devices, or IUDs, that contain the hormone progestin.

Women who rely on birth control pills or contraceptive devices that release hormones face a small but significant increase in the risk for breast cancer, according to a large study published Wednesday (Dec 6). However, he noted that the clinical implications of this study "must be placed in the context of the low incidence rates of breast cancer among younger women", pointing out that most of the new breast cancer cases occurring in the study were among women using oral contraceptives over the age of 40.

Mørch said that "knowledge is needed on the potential beneficial influence of newer contraceptives on the risk of ovarian and colorectal cancer, since evidence now relates to older types of hormonal contraceptives". "Indeed, some calculations have suggested that the net effect of the use of oral contraceptives for 5 years or longer is a slight reduction in the total risk of cancer", Hunter said.

"Estrogen has been the primary focus of breast cancer research in general, and so we know much more about it than we do progesterone", Gaudet said. Any woman's risk of breast cancer goes up as she gets older. "In particular the knowledge of risk with newer progestins was sparse".

Even if the relative risk increases 20 per cent, it remains less than one-tenth of 1 per cent.

The new study looked at all women in Denmark ages 15 to 49 who had not had cancer, clots in their veins, or treatment for infertility.

The risk was 9 percent higher with less than one year of use and 38 percent higher with more than 10 years of use.

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