Oral Contraceptives and Breast Cancer


Oral contraceptives and breast cancer have been a major concern for women for over fifty years. Scientists and researchers have been working diligently to provide answers about oral contraceptives and breast cancer.

Estrogen & Progesterone

It is important to know how the two hormones that make up oral contraceptives work. This will help scientists understand the link between oral contraceptives and breast cancer. Both estrogen and progesterone occur naturally in the female body beginning at puberty and diminishing with menopause. Estrogen stimulates the growth and development of the uterus then maintains a healthy uterus during the childbearing years. Estrogen also influences the growth of breast tissue during puberty and continues to influence the breast tissue through out life. This is why the breasts become tender or sore just before and during the menstrual cycle and during pregnancy.

Progesterone is known as the “pregnancy supporting” hormone. Progesterone prepares the uterus to receive the fertilized egg and prevents more eggs from being released from the ovaries.

Oral Contraceptives and Breast Cancer Risks

There are few things that can increase the risk of breast cancer without any help from outside factors. These include menstruation before the age of twelve and lastly menopause after the age of fifty-five. These two factors alone provide the female body with more of the estrogen and progesterone hormones that is scientifically considered to be within the “normal” limits. When a woman adds oral contraceptives (which is either a combination pill containing both estrogen and progesterone or the new minipill which contains only progestin) they are adding even more hormones to their body and this is where the increased risk of breast cancer comes in.

Oral Contraceptives and Breast Cancer Awareness

While there is a link between oral contraceptives and breast cancer, certainly not every woman or even half of the women who take oral contraceptives will develop breast cancer. Being aware of the risk and having yearly breast exams and performing a monthly self-breast exam will help ease the anxiety. In many cases when breast cancer is diagnosed early, and even in later stages, it is curable. It is not by any means a guarantee that women who take oral contraceptives will develop breast cancer. Many women who have never taken oral contraceptives nor have any other risk factors develop breast cancer. Women just need to be aware and diligent when it comes to breast exams and know there is an increased risk.


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