The study of nearly 2 million women in Denmark looked at women using birth control methods such as the pill, NuvaRing, or implants.
That information was compared to those who were diagnosed with breast cancer, which showed there was a 20 percent increase in risk of breast cancer for those taking contraceptives.
A hormone specialist at Brigham and Women's Hospital who deals with contraceptive issues says the study shouldn't alarm those taking oral contraceptives.
The overall increase in breast cancer risk was relatively small, about 20 per cent higher among current and recent users of oral contraceptives than among those who never used the drugs.
Even newer lower-dose birth control pills raise a woman's risk of breast cancer, although the actual danger is "quite small", researchers reported Wednesday.
"When we look at all comers, the absolute overall increased risk of breast was one extra case of breast cancer for every 7,690 women using hormonal contraception for one year", said Dr. Rebecca Starck, a gynecologist at the Cleveland Clinic.
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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.
The bottom line is that before starting or continuing to take hormonal contraceptives - or any medications - it's important to speak with your doctor about any potential risks and benefits, and make an informed decision from there.
The study builds on earlier findings linking hormonal birth control and breast cancer, but the new study focused on newer forms of birth control. "Depending on their reasons for using oral contraceptives, they might want to consider other options, including non-hormonal contraceptives". Over the years, makers of birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy for women past menopause have reduced the amount of estrogen in their products. After all, it means that almost a quarter of American women are doing something that might increase their risk of developing breast cancer by a third-in theory.
Two types of birth control pills are sold in the US - one that combines synthetic versions of the hormones estrogen and progesterone, and the "minipill" that only delivers progestin, a synthetic formulation of progesterone. "That is not a huge risk increase", she told NBC News. Don't forget there is relative risk of death in pregnancy, too.
"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. That roughly translates to a 12 percent lifetime risk for a woman, although many factors affect breast cancer risk.
Beyond the fact that they provide an effective means of contraception and may benefit women with menstrual cramping or abnormal menstrual bleeding, "the use of oral contraceptives is associated with substantial reductions in the risks of ovarian, endometrial, and colorectal cancers later in life".
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