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Breast Cancer

Breast cancer and birth control

12/17/1997

Question:

My question is regarding the risk of breast cancer from taking the birth control pill? I am considering taking the pill, but I have a family history of breast cancer. My Aunt had it when she was 50 and my cousin, her daughter, had it at 26. And I have two great Aunts who have had breast cancer. All of these women are on my mother's side. There is also cervical and overian cancer in my family as well. I was wondering if the pill should not be an option or if there is any other alternatives.

Answer:

Many studies have been done to determine if birth control pills or oral contraceptives(OCs)increase the risk of breast cancer. The results have been contradictory. Birth control pills (OCs) ordinarily contain the hormones estrogen and progesterone. Newer OCs contain less hormones than years ago and may be less of a risk of cancer. The two factors that seem to be most related to breast cancer and the use of OCs is timing and duration. In general, the studies have found that long-term OCs use before the first pregnancy (4years or over) have increased cancer risk. The risk increases significantly with longer use before first childbirth. You need to see a physician (gynecologist) for information about current birth control pills and alternative birth control methods. Even if there is a slight risk of breast cancer the risk may be more important to you than an unwanted pregnancy or abortion. Only you can make this decision. Because of your family history of breast cancer, please follow the American Cancer Society"s guidelines for early detection of breast cancer all your life: 1)Practice breast self exam monthly starting at age l8-20, 2)First mammogram before age 40(yours probably should be age 35) and a mammogram every year after age 40, 3)Clinical breast exam by a health caare provider every year with the mammogram. Thank you for writing.

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Response by:

Janet   Trigg, RN, MSN, EdD Janet Trigg, RN, MSN, EdD
Formerly:
College of Nursing
University of Cincinnati