New study linking newer oral contraceptive pills with an increase risk of Breast Cancer

 

What the study is about?

A new study in the New England Journal of Medicine published this week presents the results of a large study done in Denmark that showed a 20% higher risk among women who were using or had recently used oral contraceptives. The women in the study were less than 50 years of age and the risk of cancer co-related with the amount of time the contraceptives had been taken.

 

The link of oral contraceptives and an increased risk of breast cancer was seen previously in other studies with older formulations that contained estrogen and progestin combinations. The role of estrogen is well known in breast cancer while the role of progestin is uncertain.

 

In this trial, they looked at the newer formulations and types of contraceptives available in Denmark including contraceptives with new progestins and types of contraceptives.

In the study, they have also suggested that the risk of breast cancer can remain high upto 5 years after stopping the contraceptive in women who had used them for longer periods. This though is very early information and more studies and data are needed for the same.

 

The implication of this study

Though there is a 20 percent increase in breast cancer in this study, it is still a small risk as the incidence of breast cancer increases rapidly with age in general.

 

The risks of breast cancer vs the benefits of use of oral contraceptives would have to be taken into context. Oral contraceptive pills are used frequently as part of the treatment of conditions with heavy and painful menstrual periods. Oral contraceptive pills have also been shown to reduce the risk of ovarian, endometrial and colorectal cancers.

 

This study has also highlighted that the search for an oral contraceptive that does not increase the risk of breast cancer still needs to continue and more research is needed.

 

References:

http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1700732#t=article


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