Breast Cancer Risk Associated with Triphasic Birth Control Pills

[Leslie Carol Botha:  A recent Nurses’ Health Study showed  there was a slight risk of  an increase in breast cancer for women taking a “triphasic” pill -(the dose of hormones changes in three stages over the course of a woman’s monthly cycle).  However, according to the NCI, risk level returns to normal 10 years of more after discontinuing the pill.  QUESTION:  What happens during that decade?  How many women might get breast cancer? Age, genetics, nutrition ( BCP’s deplete essential vitamins), hormone imbalances, drugs, alcohol, stress, autoimmune diseases – all of these factors come into.  The days of the NCI, FDA and CDC whitewashing the issue are over.  When one starts reading the same message over and over again – ‘this drug may increase your cancer risk, but don’t worry it won’t happen to you’, it becomes really clear it is a ‘party-line’ whitewashing the truth.]

Oral Contraceptives and Cancer Risk

National Cancer Institute
Fact Sheet

  • A number of studies suggest that current use of oral contraceptives (birth control pills) appears to slightly increase the risk of breast cancer, especially among younger women. However, the risk level goes back to normal 10 years or more after discontinuing oral contraceptive use.
  • Women who use oral contraceptives have reduced risks of ovarian and endometrial cancer. This protective effect increases with the length of time oral contraceptives are used.
  • Oral contraceptive use is associated with an increased risk of cervical cancer; however, this increased risk may be because sexually active women have a higher risk of becoming infected with human papillomavirus, which causes virtually all cervical cancers.
  • Women who take oral contraceptives have an increased risk of benign liver tumors, but the relationship between oral contraceptive use and malignant liver tumors is less clear.
  1. What types of oral contraceptives are available in the United States today?

    Two types of oral contraceptives (birth control pills) are currently available in the United States. The most commonly prescribed type of oral contraceptive contains man-made versions of the natural female hormonesestrogen and progesterone. This type of birth control pill is often called a “combined oral contraceptive.” The second type is called the minipill. It contains only progestin, which is the man-made version of progesterone that is used in oral contraceptives.

  2. How could oral contraceptives influence cancer risk?

    Naturally occurring estrogen and progesterone have been found to influence the development and growth of some cancers. Because birth control pills contain female hormones, researchers have been interested in determining whether there is any link between these widely used contraceptives and cancer risk.

    The results of population studies to examine associations between oral contraceptive use and cancer risk have not always been consistent. Overall, however, the risks of endometrial and ovarian cancer appear to be reduced with the use of oral contraceptives, whereas the risks of breast, cervical, and liver cancer appear to be increased (1). A summary of research results for each type of cancer is given below.

  3. How do oral contraceptives affect breast cancer risk?

    A woman’s risk of developing breast cancer depends on several factors, some of which are related to her natural hormones. Hormonal and reproductive history factors that increase the risk of breast cancer include factors that may allow breasttissue to be exposed to high levels of hormones for longer periods of time, such as the following:

    • Beginning menstruation at an early age
    • Experiencing menopause at a late age
    • Later age at first pregnancy
    • Not having children at all

    A 1996 analysis of epidemiologic data from more than 50 studies worldwide by the Collaborative Group on Hormonal Factors in Breast Cancer found that women who were current or recent users of birth control pills had a slightly higher risk of developing breast cancer than women who had never used the pill (2). The risk was highest for women who started using oral contraceptives as teenagers. However, 10 or more years after women stopped using oral contraceptives, their risk of developing breast cancer had returned to the same level as if they had never used birth control pills, regardless of family history of breast cancer, reproductive history, geographic area of residence, ethnic background, differences in study design, dose and type of hormone(s) used, or duration of use. In addition, breast cancers diagnosed in women who had stopped using oral contraceptives for 10 or more years were less advanced than breast cancers diagnosed in women who had never used oral contraceptives.

    A recent analysis of data from the Nurses’ Health Study, which has been following more than 116,000 female nurses who were 24 to 43 years old when they enrolled in the study in 1989 (3), found that the participants who used oral contraceptives had a slight increase in breast cancer risk. However, nearly all of the increased risk was seen among women who took a specific type of oral contraceptive, a “triphasic” pill, in which the dose of hormones is changed in three stages over the course of a woman’s monthly cycle.

    Because the association with the triphasic formulation was unexpected, more research will be needed to confirm the findings from the Nurses’ Health Study.

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Author: Leslie Carol Botha

Author, publisher, radio talk show host and internationally recognized expert on women's hormone cycles. Social/political activist on Gardasil the HPV vaccine for adolescent girls. Co-author of "Understanding Your Mood, Mind and Hormone Cycle." Honorary advisory board member for the Foundation for the Study of Cycles and member of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research.