Do birth control pills prevent ovarian cancer?

Donnica Moore, MD
OBGYN (Obstetrics & Gynecology)
Watch as women's health expert and advocate Dr. Donnica Moore explains how using birth control pills may reduce the risk of developing ovarian cancer.
Barbara A. Goff, MD
Gynecologic Oncology
Watch as gynecologic oncologist Dr. Barbara Goff explains whether or not using birth control will reduce the risk of ovarian cancer.
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Studies show that taking the birth control pill can lower your risk of ovarian and uterine cancer. In this video, gynecologic oncologist Dr. Judith Wolfe tells Dr. Oz how the Pill works to prevent cancer.
Larry E. Puls, MD
Gynecologic Oncology
The short answer is yes. One of the theories about ovarian cancer (and it is JUST theoretical), is the principle of incessant ovulation: the more times a woman ovulates (i.e., has a normal menstrual cycle) in her life, the higher her risk of ovarian cancer. If a woman uses birth control pills for five years, she lowers her risk of ovarian cancer by 40-50 percent.

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Birth control pills reduce the risk of ovarian cancer, especially among women who use them for 5 years or more. These women have about half the risk of getting ovarian cancer compared with women who never used the pill.
Sharyn N. Lewin, MD
OBGYN (Obstetrics & Gynecology)
Taking birth control pills or oral contraceptive pills for over 5 years will decrease the risk of developing ovarian cancer.

In addition, women who have had multiple pregnancies, a history of breastfeeding, or have had a hysterectomy/tubal ligation maybe a lower the risk of ovarian cancer.
Evelyn Minaya, MD
OBGYN (Obstetrics & Gynecology)

Birth control pills can prevent ovarian cancer. We think that one of the mechanisms that women are at risk for ovarian cancer is constant ovulation. In other words, ovulation that is never interrupted with a pregnancy or medications. All birth control, including pills, patches, injections and rings can all achieve the same protection by stopping ovulation. The longer that you stay on birth control pills, the more protection you get. As a matter of fact, if a patient is positive for the BRCA 1 or 2 gene and is not finished with her child bearing, we strongly encourage them to start birth control to give them that protective effect.

Charla Simon
OBGYN (Obstetrics & Gynecology)

Taking birth control pills does lower a woman's risk of developing ovarian cancer. The risk reduction remains for at least the first 5-10 years off of the pill. 

This protective effect has been seen even in women at higher risk for developing ovarian cancer (women with BRCA mutations or a family history of ovarian or breast cancer). 

Scott A. Kamelle, MD
Gynecologic Oncology
Epidemiologic studies have consistently shown that the use of oral contraceptives (OCs) reduces the risk of ovarian cancer. This reduction in risk is increased with longer OC use. A general rule of thumb is that a women's risk of developing ovarian cancer is reduced by 20% for each five-year interval of OC use. Furthermore, the protective effect of OCs persists even after a woman stops using the pill. However, the protection that OC use affords gradually dissipates with the passing of time.
Mary Lake Polan
OBGYN (Obstetrics & Gynecology)
Yes, birth control pills lower your risk of getting ovarian cancer. We think this happens because they prevent the your ovaries from releasing an egg - called ovulation - and that monthly ovulation with the rupture of the surface of the ovary to release the egg and the healing that follows stimulates the cells on the ovarian surface to grow and divide. Since birth control pills prevent the disruption and healing cycle on the surface of the ovary, that may explain the lower chance of getting ovarian cancer in women who use them for years. 
Kathleen D. Mahoney, MD
OBGYN (Obstetrics & Gynecology)

For many years, it has been known that the use of birth control pills reduces the risk of a woman developing ovarian cancer. This risk reduction exists while a woman is taking birth control pills and continues for years after she stops taking them. Most of these studies were done in women who were at average risk of ovarian cancer and not in women who have a strong family history of ovarian cancer, nor were they done in women who carry a genetic mutation that raises the risk of ovarian and or breast cancer. In women who carry such a mutation, smaller studies have been done and seem to unfortunately show less of a protective effect. The pill has many 'non-contraceptive' benefits, and a reduction in the risk of ovarian cancer is one of them.

Frederick Friedman, MD
OBGYN (Obstetrics & Gynecology)
The evidence supports the fact that birth control pills lower the risk of both ovarian cancer and endometrial (uterine lining) cancer.
Taking birth control pills decreases your risk of both ovarian cancer and uterine cancer.
Daniel Labow, MD
Surgical Oncology

Oral contraceptives (OCs) first became available to American women in the early 1960s. Concerns have been raised about the role that the hormones in OCs might play in a number of cancers, and how hormone-based OCs contribute to their development.

Studies have consistently shown that using OCs reduces the risk of ovarian cancer. Researchers from Harvard Medical School found that the risk of ovarian cancer decreased with increasing duration of OC use. Results showed a 10 to 12 percent decrease in risk after 1 year of use, and approximately a 50 percent decrease after 5 years of use.

Researchers have studied how the amount or type of hormones in OCs affects ovarian cancer risk reduction. One of the studies used in the Harvard analysis, the Cancer and Steroid Hormone Study (CASH), found that the reduction in ovarian cancer risk was the same regardless of the type or amount of estrogen or progestin in the pill. A more recent analysis of data from the CASH study, however, indicated that OC formulations with high levels of progestin reduced ovarian cancer risk more than preparations with low progestin levels.

Paula Greer
Midwifery Nursing
Birth control pills reduce the risk of ovarian cancer by 10-12 percent when used consistently for over one year and by 50 percent when used for five years. Some people are more at risk for ovarian cancer due to a family history and may want to consider Braca testing before using any form of hormone therapy. Discuss your family history and your individual risks with your health care provider to see if birth control pills will be good for you.
Nimesh P. Nagarsheth, MD
Gynecologic Oncology

Your risks for ovarian cancer may go down if you take the birth control pill. However, they have risks. In this video, Nimesh Nagarsheth, MD, a gynecolgic oncologist at The Mount Sinai Medical Center, discusses the Pill and ovarian cancer.

Dr. Robin Miller, MD
Internal Medicine
Wondering if your birth control pills help reduce your risk of ovarian cancer?

Watch my video to learn more about how birth control affects your risk of ovarian cancer.
Patricia Geraghty, NP
Women's Health
Birth Control pills and other hormonal contraception such as the vaginal ring absolutely reduce the risk of ovarian cancer. The numbers vary among the different studies, but three to five years of hormonal contraception use reduces the risk of ovarian cancerby 50-80%. This protection seems to last for many years even after the pills or ring are discontinued.

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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.