Breast cancer and hormones

11th May 2023

Posted by Dr Michelle Wright

In the second part of the mini-series on breast cancer, Dr Michelle looks at new evidence around the hormonal contraception and breast cancer risk.

We’ve known for some time that taking the combined oral contraceptive pill – containing both oestrogen and progestogen – carries a small increased risk of breast cancer.  

But we didn’t really know much about breast cancer risk for progestogen-only contraception: the mini-pill, progestogen implants, or injectable progestogen until the results of a study carried out by the University of Oxford in the UK were published in March this year. It looked at around 9500 women under 50 diagnosed with breast cancer between 1996 and 2017, comparing them to around 18,000 women without breast cancer. 

The findings showed that 44% of women diagnosed with breast cancer compared to 39% of women in the control group had been prescribed hormonal contraceptives for an average of 3 years before their breast cancer diagnosis. And the study concluded that there was a 20-30% increase in breast cancer risk for women currently, or recently using any type of hormonal contraception.  

Of course, this made the headlines because it sounds like a big percentage increase, as relative risks always do.  

Listen on to find out Dr Michelle’s advice.

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