Can birth control lower your cancer risk?

Can birth control lower your cancer risk?

There are multiple reasons a woman may choose to take hormonal contraception.

With the decision comes both potential health benefits and risks, many of which have long been researched.

According to research published in the journal JAMA Oncology, using birth control pills may be tied to a lower risk of ovarian and endometrial cancer for all women who take them long-term — including smokers and those who are obese.

By analyzing data from 1995-2011, researchers noted a 40 percent reduction in risk among women who took the pill for 10 or more years, and the benefit was not limited to healthy women; it extended to those who smoked and/or were considered obese.

According to the American Cancer Society, both smoking and obesity are among the known risk factors for ovarian cancer.

The information adds to the body of evidence that hormonal contraception does, in fact, have significant benefits,” says Dr. Casey Morris, an OB/GYN with Advocate Medical Group.

“That is not to say that, like anything else in life, there are not risks,” Dr. Morris warns.

“But this certainly argues for consideration of use in an expanded population of patients,” he says. “Obviously, the pros and cons of hormonal contraception have to be individualized, and at certain ages, the risks of these medications in smokers (and to a lesser degree, the obese) outweigh the benefits. I think this study lends reassurance to the use of these medications in this patient population not simply for contraception, but also for malignancy risk reduction, both of which are markedly increased in the population of smokers and elevated body mass index.”

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One Comment

  1. This article is misleading. Birth control pills lower risk of certain cancers, the ones you mentioned, but it failed to mention that birth control pills are also linked to increased risk of breast and cervical cancers, which is well documented in the literature. See for more info.

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About the Author

Holly Brenza
Holly Brenza

Holly Brenza, health enews contributor, is a public affairs coordinator on the content team at Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care. She is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago. In her free time, Holly enjoys reading, watching the White Sox and Blackhawks, playing with her dog, Bear and running her cats' Instagram account, @strangefurthings.