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New Study Shows Birth Control Pill Doesn't Increase Risk of Breast Cancer - 2002-06-27

Women who have used 'the Pill' do not have to worry about an increased risk of breast cancer. So concludes a new study published in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine.

About 80 percent of U.S. women born since 1945 have used oral contraceptives at one time or another, according to lead researcher Polly Marchbanks of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia. "We were especially interested in resolving the long-standing concern about whether former oral contraceptive use during the reproductive years would increase breast cancer risk later in life when breast cancer incidence is higher," she said.

Oral contraceptives use female hormones to suppress ovulation, interfering with pregnancy. But there has always been concern that the hormones - estrogen, in particular - could promote breast cancer.

Previous studies looking at the link between breast cancer and the Pill were inconclusive. So, Ms. Marchbanks and her colleagues decided to conduct a study of almost 4600 women with breast cancer. The researchers compared their birth control history to that of a control group of women without the ailment.

Lead Researcher Polly Marchbanks said that, "our study provides strong evidence that past use of oral contraceptives does not increase the risk of breast cancer in later life. In addition, our study showed women, 35 to 64 years old, currently using oral contraceptives were not at increased breast cancer risk."

Ms. Marchbanks says for women who do not smoke, oral contraceptives have a number of other positive benefits, including evidence that the Pill may reduce the risk of ovarian cancer and protect against some pelvic infections. But, she cautions, oral contraceptives are no shield against HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.