EBCC: Oral Contraceptives may Increase Risk of Breast Cancer

BARCELONA, SPAIN — March 25, 2002 — Women who have ever used the birth control pill face a slightly increased risk of developing breast cancer, according to one of the largest studies on oral contraceptive use, the 3rd European Breast Cancer Conference (EBCC) heard on Friday, March 22nd.

The women's risk rose by just over a quarter (26 percent) compared with women who had never used the pill. Women who were still using the pill had an increased risk of just over a half (58 percent) compared with never-users. The highest increased risk was amongst women aged 45 or over who were still using the pill — their risk of developing breast cancer was nearly one and a half times (144 percent) the risk of never-users.

However, Dr Merethe Kumle, the epidemiologist leading the research said that it was important not to overstate this risk. "Oral contraceptives have a lot of advantages as well as disadvantages," she said. "The total number of deaths from any cause amongst women who use oral contraceptives is likely to be lower than women who have never used the pill — just as we have seen with hormone replacement therapy. The pill has made it possible for women to decide when and how many children they will give birth to — something which has revolutionised women's lives and is an important issue in women's rights."

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