Birth Control Pills
Current or recent use of birth control pills (oral contraceptives) is linked to a slight increase in the risk of breast cancer [9,40-43].
Studies show while women are taking birth control pills (and shortly after), their breast cancer risk is 20-30 percent higher than for women who’ve never taken the pill [40,42-43].
However, this extra risk has a fairly small impact because the absolute risk of breast cancer for most young women is low [40,42-43]. So, even those who have a slightly higher risk are unlikely to get breast cancer.
Once women stop taking the pill, their risk of breast cancer begins to decrease [40,43]. Over time, the level of risk returns to that of women who have never taken the pill [40,43].
For a summary of research studies on birth control pills and breast cancer, visit the Breast Cancer Research Studies section.
Weighing the pros and cons of birth control pill use
Birth control pills have some risks including a small increased risk of breast cancer (recent or current use). However, in addition to preventing pregnancy, birth control pills decrease the risk of uterine and ovarian cancers [44-46].
Before making any decisions about birth control pills (or if you’re currently taking them and haven’t done so already), talk with your health care provider about the benefits and risks.
Lower-dose birth control pills
Overall, today’s lower-dose pills are linked to an increased breast cancer risk just like older, higher-dose forms of the pill .
Progestin-only pills (mini-pills)
Some lower-dose birth control pills contain progestin only, with no estrogen. They may be called mini-pills. Mini-pills often lower the number of periods a woman has during a year, and periods may become irregular.
The use of noresthisterone mini-pills doesn’t appear to be linked to breast cancer .
Before using any type of birth control pills (or if you’re currently taking them and haven’t done so already), talk with your health care provider about their benefits and risks.
Other hormonal contraceptives
Like birth control pills, some other contraceptives contain (or release) hormones.
Some contain progestin alone:
- Depo Provera (an injected contraceptive)
- Hormone-releasing IUDs (intrauterine devices)
Some contain both estrogen and progestin:
- Birth control patch
- Vaginal ring
Findings on these products and breast cancer risk are discussed below. However, data on these products, especially studies with long-term follow-up, are limited. These topics are under study.
Before using any type of birth control with hormones (or if you’re currently using one and haven’t done so already), talk with your health care provider about its benefits and risks.
Findings on Depo Provera have shown no link to breast cancer risk overall [43,47-48].
However, a possible increase in risk has been found among current, longer-term users compared to women who’ve never used Depo Provera [47-48].
Findings on hormone-releasing IUDs and breast cancer are mixed. Some studies show IUDs have no link to breast cancer risk [49-50]. Others show women who use hormone-releasing IUDs may have about a 20 percent increased risk of breast cancer (similar to birth control pills) .
Other findings suggest women who used hormone-releasing IUDs in the past may have an increased risk of breast cancer after menopause .
Birth control patch and vaginal ring
Use of the birth control patch or the vaginal ring doesn’t appear to be linked to breast cancer risk . However, data are limited.
Read our perspective on birth control pills and breast cancer risk.*
*Please note, the information provided within Komen Perspectives articles is only current as of the date of posting. Therefore, some information may be out of date.