ATLANTA — May is Women's Health Month, and 11Alive is working to dispel any reports related to the topic. Although sometimes breast cancer can be brought up a lot, there is still a lot of misinformation and misconceptions about the disease.
Several reports have shown a possible link between birth control and breast cancer, so can the contraceptive pill increase your risk of getting this disease?
Is birth control linked to breast cancer?
Yes, women taking birth control pills have a small increased risk of getting breast cancer. However, birth control pills and IUDs also help decrease the risk of other cancers.
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11Alive Medical Expert Dr. Sujatha Reddy said several studies have shown a link between the two. She said there are several studies indicating that estrogen promotes and allows cancer cells to grow more quickly.
“I think most health care providers have accepted that there might be a little bit of a risk if you take hormones, as far as breast cancer down the road," she explained. "The thing you have to weigh, though, is would a pregnancy increase that risk?”
According to the Susan G. Kome Foundation, studies have shown that while taking birth control pills, women's breast cancer risk is 20% to 30% higher compared to women who have never taken the pill.
But as Dr. Reddy explains, your age while taking the medication, and the length of time you take contraceptives, also play a role.
“The younger you are, the safer it will be because your risk is small for breast cancer at a young age anyway," she said. "So if you started it young and then possibly stop it when you absolutely don’t need it, that slight increased risk probably won’t affect you because the longer you’re off the pill, that risk does seem to abate or go away."
The Susan G. Komen organization adds that once women stop taking birth control pills, their risk starts decreasing and that after five years, the risk for breast cancer is similar to women who have never taken the pill.
While studies have shown the risk of getting breast cancer due to the pill, Dr. Reddy said it's also important to note the benefits.
"We have known for many years that birth control pills or IUDs seem to decrease a woman’s risk for ovarian cancer and uterine cancer. So those are two important cancers as well," she added.