Breast Cancer & Birth Control: The Fast Facts You Need To Know

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Fast Facts You Need To Know

Birth Control & Breast Cancer: The Fast Facts You Need To Know

Hormonal birth control and I.U.D's show slight increase in chances of breast cancer researchers say.

The study followed 1.8 million Danish women for more than a decade. It was estimated that for every "100,000 women using hormonal birth control, there are 68 cases of breast cancer annually, compared with 55 cases a year among nonusers".

Links between hormonal birth control pills and breast cancer had been established years ago, but this is the first piece of research that studied the current state of birth control pills and devices within large amounts of users.

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The Breakdown

The research targets the hormone progestin, which is widely used in modern birth control, may be a factor in the increased risk of breast cancer.

“This is an important study because we had no idea how the modern day pills compared to the old-fashioned pills in terms of breast cancer risk, and we didn’t know anything about I.U.D.’s,” said Dr. Marisa Weiss, an oncologist who founded the website breastcancer.org and was not involved in the study. “Gynecologists just assumed that a lower dose of hormone meant a lower risk of cancer. But the same elevated risk is there.”

“It’s small but it’s measurable, and if you add up all the millions of women taking the pill, it is a significant public health concern,” Dr. Weiss added.

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The Numbers

According to the same study, the duration of time a woman takes birth control, the chance of breast cancer increases by 38%.

"The level of breast cancer risk increased the longer a woman had been taking hormonal contraceptives, with the average risk increase being 20% among all current and recent users of these forms of contraceptives. The researchers saw a 9% increased breast cancer risk among women taking hormonal contraceptives for under a year, rising to 38% if more than 10 years.Among women who had been using hormonal contraceptives for more than five years, a slight risk persisted for at least five years after they stopped, according to the study published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine".

However, Hunter also stresses that "breast cancer remains a relatively rare disease in younger women." In women under 35 included in the study, taking hormonal contraceptives for less than one year resulted in 1 extra case per 50,000 women, he said. "The number of cases increases with age because the risk of breast cancer increased with age," said Hunter.

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Don't Panic

It is important to note that the study could not take into account other factors of the female participant. Factors like, physical activity, breast feeding, and alcohol consumption, all of which can influence likelihood of breast cancer in women.

Keep in mind, oral contraceptives have benefits as well. They can reduce chances of ovarian, endometrial, and possibly colorectal cancers later in life.

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How To Prevent Breast Cancer

Although getting cancer is uncontrollable, there are ways to try to prevent breast cancer. If you're family has history of breast cancer, consider getting yourself checked for the BRCA1 gene. The company Color can send you a kit for under $100.

Diet & exercise, limiting alcohol intake, avoiding cigarettes and other tobacco products, and checking your breasts frequently can all combat, or catch breast cancer in an early stage.

If you have questions or concerns consult your doctor or healthcare providers like Planned Parenthood.

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