New Study Finds No Link Between Breast Cancer and Pill
One of the largest studies of its kind has found no link between breast cancer and birth control pills, the second most widely used form of contraception in the United States, researchers reported Thursday.
The scientists found that oral contraceptive use--which trails only sterilization in popularity--neither increased nor decreased the risk of breast cancer, regardless of how old the women were when they started taking the pill, how long they used it, the amount of the hormone progestin in the pill and whether they took the pill before having their first child.
The research study, to be published in the Nov. 2 issue of The Lancet, a British medical journal, compared 2,088 women age 20-44 who were diagnosed with breast cancer between 1980 and 1982 to 2,065 women of similar ages who did not have breast cancer.
Other Risks Reduced
The breast cancer group was part of a larger study that also found the pill reduces the risk of endometrial, uterine and ovarian cancer by 50% or more. Those results were reported in 1983.
The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, a branch of the National Institutes of Health, conducted the study along with researchers from the federal Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta.
The results contradicted those of two 1983 studies, which found increased risk of breast cancer up to age 37 among women who started using the pill early and those who used it before their first pregnancy.
“I have substantial personal confidence that the results in this study correctly describe oral contraceptive use as having no effect on the incidence of breast cancer in this country,” said Dr. Bruce Stadel, a medical epidemiologist at the institute.
Further Study Needed
“We feel reasonably confident that those earlier reports do not warrant further concern,” he said.
However, he added that the issue would have to be studied further. There is concern that the pill contributes to cell changes that may lead to cervical cancer, and a study is under way to determine this.
Other researchers warned that caution is still in order because of the diversity of studies, some of which support the latest report, and others the 1983 reports.
Dr. Sidney Wolfe, director of the Public Citizen Health Research Group, called Stadel’s statement “outrageous in that it dismissed the results of two other studies.”