8th December, 2017

New research was published yesterday on the risk of breast cancer for users of hormonal contraception. The research - carried out by the University of Aberdeen, in collaboration with Rigshospitalet, University of Copenhagen - followed 1.8 million Danish women below 50 years of age from 1995 to 2012, and was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Professor Phil Hannaford, who led the research team based in Aberdeen, said: “Breast cancer is rare in young women. In this study, the absolute extra risk of breast cancer associated with use of hormonal contraception among all women age 15-49 years was 1.3 per 10,000 person-years, or one extra breast cancer for every 7,690 women using hormonal contraception for one year."

An NHS Choices analysis of the study points out that "the actual risk of breast cancer to an individual woman is tiny".

Bekki Burbidge, Deputy Chief Executive of the sexual health charity FPA, commented on the findings:

“Previous research has suggested that users of hormonal contraception appear to have a small increased risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer compared to non-users of hormonal contraception – importantly, this risk reduces with time after stopping the method. This new study appears to support this.

“Millions of women rely on hormonal contraception to prevent pregnancy and for a range of other benefits such as help with heavy, painful periods. If women are worried, they shouldn’t suddenly stop using their contraception, which could lead to unplanned pregnancy, but should discuss the benefits and risks with a doctor or nurse.

“Hormonal contraception can also offer protection against certain cancers – the combined pill reduces the risk of cancer of the ovary, uterus and colon.

“The benefits and risks of any method of contraception should always be discussed with a doctor or nurse before starting that method. With 15 methods to choose from, no one should stay on a contraceptive method that they’re unhappy with.”