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Contraceptive pill - cancer risk or benefit?

March 2010

A new study from the United Kingdom has suggested that rather than increase cancer risk, the contraceptive pill may actually reduce it, and contribute to increased lifespan.

The study, involving 46,000 women observed over 39 years, adds significant new evidence to the question of whether oral contraception increases or decreases the risk of chronic illnesses like cancer and cardiovascular disease, as well as other diseases.

Cancer Council Australia’s assessment is that in general this study should bring comfort to women who have used the contraceptive pill. It finds that there is no long-term greater risk of death, including deaths from any form of cancer. It also echoes the results of two other population studies.

However, these results are about balancing risk factors and the balance may differ in populations from other countries and for individual women.

Since the results are of long-term follow-up they cannot be applied to current or recent users of the pill. The oral contraceptive itself has changed in composition over the decades and long-term results apply more to women treated with the older type of contraceptive pill.

The study was large, although there were many lost to follow-up, and the period of observation long, so this is an important addition to the information available on the longer term consequences of oral contraceptive use.



This page was last updated on: Friday, June 14, 2013