Danish Study Links Long-Term Birth Control Pill Use to Risk for Rare Brain Cancer


A new Danish research study suggests that the risk for developing a brain cancer known as glioma appears to increase with long-term use of oral contraceptives such as the birth control pill.

The Study

Women who are under the age of 50 years old with a glioma were according to the study 90 percent more likely to have been using hormonal contraceptives for five or more years, according to the leader of the study, Dr. David Gaist.

However, the study performed by Danish researchers could not definitely prove cause and effect and Dr. Gaist stressed that the findings need to be put into context for females because glioma is extremely rare.

How rare is glioma?

According to United States Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, only five in every 100,000 Danish females between the ages of 15 and 49 develop the condition each year. Dr. Gaist, stated that the figure included women who take oral contraceptives like the birth control pill.
Gaist stated that “an overall risk-benefit evaluation favors continued use of hormonal contraceptives.”

The findings of this study were published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology.
During the study, Gaist and his team reviewed government data on all Danish females between the ages of 15 and 49 who had developed a glioma between 2000 and 2009.

In all, the team found 317 glioma cases, among whom almost 60 percent had used a contraceptive at some point in time. They then compared them to more than 2,100 glioma-free women of similar ages, about half of whom had used oral contraceptives.

It appears that the Pill or other types of hormonal contraceptives did seem to increase the risk of glioma, but researchers reported it seemed to increase with the duration of use.

Additionally, the scientists found that the risk of glioma appeared to increase sharply for women who had taken oral contraceptives containing the hormone progesterone, rather than estrogen.

Dr. Evan Myers, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina described the Danish research study as “really well done.”

However, he highlighted the fact that research could not prove a cause-and-effect relationship between using hormonal contraceptives and the risk of glioma. Myers also suggested that future studies should probably focus on a number of indirect factor such as the following; progesterone found in certain types of intrauterine device or IUDs, which could also play a crucial role in driving up the risk of glioma.

In Closing

In conclusion, Myers stressed “even if hormonal contraception does increase the relative risk of glioma, the absolute risk-the actual increase in the chances of having a glioma diagnosed-is quite small.”
According to Dr. Myer’s statistical breakdown, using information obtained between 2000 and 2011, glioma affected less than two of every 100,000 women in America between the ages of 15 and 29.

He stated, “To put that in perspective, that’s about one-tenth the risk of death from trauma in women aged 15 to 44, and a little over twice the risk of dying from a complication of pregnancy.”

The figures and mathematics done by Myers suggested an even lower risk when reviewing information about women taking the Pill or another type of hormonal contraceptive.


The information provided on Contracept.org is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between a patient/site visitor and his/her health professional. This information is solely for informational purposes and does not constitute the practice of medicine. We encourage all visitors to see a licensed physician or nutritionist if they have any concerns regarding health issues related to diet, personal image and any other topics discussed on this site. Neither the owners or employees of Contracept.org nor the author(s) of site content take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading this site. Always speak with your primary health care provider before engaging in any form of self treatment. Please see our Legal Statement for further information.

Login or Sign Up