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Contraceptive Pills Could Increase Risk Of Breast Cancer

First Posted: Jul 03, 2017 05:31 AM EDT
Bayer To Bid For Schering
Packages of Bayer aspirin and Schering Yasmin contraceptive pills lie on a table at a pharmacy.
(Photo : Andreas Rentz/Getty Images)

Taking contraceptive pills may be a way to avoid pregnancy but is not as effective in avoiding cancers. A new study showed that some commonly prescribed pills may increase the risk of breast cancer more than scientists initially thought.

A study published by the University of Michigan found that some of the most commonly prescribed birth control pills could increase the levels of synthetic estrogen and progesterone hormones up to four times higher. High levels of these hormones can play a part of stimulating breast cancer growth, which is why some patients are prescribed therapy to block the effects of such hormones on cancer cells.

Huffington Post noted that despite this, authors stressed on the positive impact of contraceptive pills on women's lives. This is why manufacturers need to ensure their formulations limit the risk of breast cancer.

Authors of the study examined seven commonly prescribed pills and found that four formulations have more than quadruple their levels of progestin, which is a synthetic version of progesterone. Another formulation was shown to have 40 percent higher exposure of estradiol, which is a synthetic version of estrogen.

The study's lead author, Beverly Strassmann, a human evolutionary biologist, emphasized on the way birth control has greatly improved the lives of women around the world. However, she also noted that it is important to design them in a way so as these would not contribute risk for breast cancer.

Cancer Research UK, however, advises that there is only 1 percent of breast cancers in women that are caused by oral contraceptives. The protective effects of the pills against other kinds of cancers, particularly womb and ovarian cancer, last longer than the supposed increased risk of breast and cervical cancers. Overall, this means that the protective effects still outweigh the possibility of increased risk of cancer, if scientists look into all the women who take contraceptive pills.

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