Every Birth Control On The Market Can Cause Cancer, New Study Shows

The risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer increased by 20 to 30 percent among people who recently used any form of hormonal birth control.

By Tori Hook | Published

birth control

After the overturn of Roe v. Wade, more people than ever are eager to get on birth control to protect against the risk of unwanted pregnancy. But studies have shown that most birth control pills, which generally contain synthetic versions of the female hormones estrogen and progestogen, elevate the user’s risk of breast cancer. Because of this, many people have opted for single-hormone birth control options, like intrauterine devices or “mini-pills,” but new research shows that the risk of breast cancer when using these forms of birth control is roughly the same as the risk presented by the traditional birth control pill.

According to NBC News, the risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer increased by 20 to 30 percent among people who recently used any form of hormonal birth control. If those numbers seem high, the number of American women it will affect is even higher; 14 percent of American women ages 15 to 49 took birth control pills, and an additional 10 percent used long-term methods of birth control like implants or intrauterine devices. That’s over 1.5 million people at a higher risk of developing breast cancer than the typical American woman.

The new data leaves many women in the United States feeling stuck between a rock and a hard place; with abortion and even day-after pills made illegal in many places, sexually active women must choose between a higher risk of pregnancy and a higher risk of breast cancer. Those who are on hormonal contraceptives for other reasons, like polycystic ovary syndrome, endometriosis, and other hormonal problems, don’t have any choice at all—birth control is a necessary evil for their overall health. A risk of cancer is just one of the negative side effects women take on when they take birth control; many people experience weight loss or gain, mood changes, mental illness, and even physical pain.

The numbers are daunting, but the danger isn’t quite as immediate as it sounds; the average woman, not on a hormonal contreceptive, has a 12.5 percent change of developing breast cancer at some point in her lifetime. Birth control definitely increases those odds, but not by a large amount. For the average person, the increased risk was around just 8 percent over a period of 15 years or more. The risk presented by taking birth control is also only present while taking it or if you’ve been on it recently. Once you stop taking it, the higher risk of breast cancer goes away.

The research also doesn’t show that hormonal contraceptives can help fight against other, more insidious forms of cancer, like endometrial, ovarian, and colorectal. The protection against these cancers also outlasts the risk of breast cancer that occurs when taking hormonal contraceptives. Researchers are absolutely not calling for a widespread stoppage of birth control use, but rather for informed use.

Women and others with female anatomy should perform regular breast self-exams and should visit a medical practitioner regularly for both pap smears and mammograms to protect against the risk of various cancers. If you’re sexually active, hormonal contraceptives can be a safe and effective way to protect yourself against unwanted pregnancy—despite the risk. Work with your doctor to find the contraception method that works best for you.