Do birth control pills increase the risk of cancer?

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Studies suggest that taking the Pill can increase the risk of cervical cancer, but  gynecologist Dr. Carolyn Westhoff tells Dr. Oz that the benefits outweigh that danger for most women. In this video, she explains what you can do to lower your risk of cervical cancer if you take the Pill.
Researchers believe birth control pills like LoSeasonique do not cause breast cancer. If you have breast cancer, or have a history of breast cancer, the hormones in LoSeasonique may affect hormone-sensitive breast cancer and use of this medication is not recommended. Some research has shown a slightly higher risk of cervical cancer in women who use birth control pills, but the reason could be a higher number of sexual partners for those using oral contraception.
Anthony L. Komaroff, MD
Internal Medicine
The overall risk of cancer in women who use the birth control pill does not appear to be increased.

In fact, there is good evidence that certain cancers, most notably uterine and ovarian cancer, are decreased in women who use the pill. Some controversy remains about whether the pill increases the risk of breast and cervical cancer. If there is an effect, it appears to be very slight and has not been confirmed in all studies.

The Women's Health Initiative was a large study done to evaluate the risks of hormone therapy in women after menopause. It showed a higher risk of breast cancer in women who used estrogen and progesterone together for more than four years.

However, it is important to note that menopausal women are biologically different from women who take the pill for birth control and the doses of hormone used are not the same. We cannot assume that the hormone effects in these different groups will be the same and studies suggest that this is the case.

Some oral contraceptive pills contain estrogen and progesterone. In this case, it is difficult to separate the effects of one hormone or the other.

The studies on the progesterone only pill are reassuring. They suggest there is no significant increase in breast cancer risk. There are other potentially dangerous but rare effects of hormone contraceptives. These risks include blood clots and heart disease.

The decision to use the pill should be made after you and your doctor carefully consider the risks and weighed them against the benefits of reliable contraception.

Continue Learning about Birth Control Pill

Birth Control Pill

Birth Control Pill

Birth control pills contain estrogen and progesterone to suppress ovulation and prevent pregnancy. Common side effects include bleeding between periods, nausea, weight gain, breast tenderness, mood changes and mild headaches. The ...

birth control pill is one of the most popular and effective contraceptive methods available. When taken correctly -- at the same time every day -- they are 99% effective at preventing pregnancy.

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.