Denver Newsroom, Mar 23, 2023 / 13:48 pm
Some forms of contraceptive use have “a significant increase in risk of breast cancer,” a new study says, and one fertility specialist believes that women deserve to know the risks — and the alternatives.
“If it increases risk, women simply need to be informed of this. They need to be able to make an informed choice,” Dr. Marguerite Duane, MD, a family physician who specializes in women’s health and restorative and reproductive medicine, told CNA.
“Without birth control, their risk is lower. It is lower, and that is a fact,” she said. Some women may choose to take that risk, while other women with risk factors like a family history of breast cancer may choose not to.
Duane is an adjunct associate professor at both Georgetown University and Duquesne University School of Medicine. She is also executive director of the Fertility Appreciation Collaborative to Teach the Science, a group of physicians, health care professionals, and educators who provide information on natural or fertility awareness-based methods of family planning.
She responded to news coverage of a study published in the PLOS Medicine journal by Oxford researchers. The study shows a 20% to 30% relative risk for breast cancer associated with progestogen-only contraceptives, according to CNN. The study drew on data from almost 10,000 U.K. women who were diagnosed with invasive breast cancer over a 21-year period and from more than 18,000 women who were not diagnosed with breast cancer.
Progestogens, also known as progestin, are synthetic hormone drugs that mimic progesterone, a natural hormone vital for menstruation and pregnancy. Progestogen-only contraceptives are provided in various ways: an implant, a hormonal intrauterine device, a contraceptive injection, or the “minipill.”
These contraceptives differ from the most popular contraceptive, a combined oral contraceptive pill that includes estrogen.
The researchers used data from the Clinical Practice Research Datalink and combined these results with previous research on contraceptives, CNN reported. They estimated “absolute excess risks,” which means “the additional number of women who would be expected to develop breast cancer in those who used oral contraceptives compared to those who did not,” according to the March 21 news release from Oxford Population Health’s Cancer Epidemiology Unit.
They reported “a significant increase in risk of breast cancer” regardless of which contraceptive drug was used.
In high-income countries, five years of use of combined or progestogen-only contraceptives has a 15-year “excess risk” of breast cancer dependent on age, according to researchers. They estimated that for women ages 16 to 20, this excess risk means 8 in 100,000 contraceptive users will develop breast cancer, while for women aged 35 to 39 it is 265 per 100,000 users.
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