The Who, What, Where, When and Sometimes, Why.

Birth Control Pills

Current or recent use of birth control pills (oral contraceptives) slightly increases the risk of breast cancer [10,35-38].

Studies show while women are taking birth control pills (and shortly after), their breast cancer risk is 20-30 percent higher than women who have never used the pill [35,37-38].

However, this extra risk is quite small because the risk of breast cancer for most young women is low [35,37-38]. So, even with this slightly higher risk, most young women are unlikely to get breast cancer.

Once women stop taking the pill, their risk of breast cancer begins to decrease [35,38]. Over time, risk returns to that of women who have never taken the pill [35,38].   

For a summary of research studies on birth control pills and breast cancer, visit the Breast Cancer Research Studies section.

Weighing the pros and cons of birth control pill use

Before making any decisions about birth control pills (or if you are currently taking them and haven’t done so already), talk with your health care provider about the benefits and risks.

Birth control pills have some risks. However, in addition to preventing pregnancy, they also decrease the risk of uterine and ovarian cancers [39-41].

Lower-dose birth control pills

Overall, today’s lower-dose pills increase breast cancer risk just like older forms of the pill [38].

Progestin-only pills (mini-pills)

Some lower-dose birth control pills contain progestin only, and no estrogen. They may be called “mini-pills”. Mini-pills often lower the number of periods a woman has during a year and they may be irregular.

Noresthisterone mini-pills don’t appear to increase breast cancer risk [38].

Before using any type of birth control pills (or if you are currently taking them and haven’t done so already), talk with your health care provider about their benefits and risks. 

Other hormonal contraceptives

Like birth control pills, some other contraceptives contain (or release) hormones.

Some contain progestin alone:

  • Depo Provera (an injected contraceptive)
  • Hormone-releasing IUDs (intrauterine devices)

Some contain both estrogen and progestin:

  • Birth control patch
  • Vaginal ring

Findings on these products and breast cancer risk are discussed below. These topics are still under study.

Before using any type of birth control with hormones (or if you are currently using one and haven’t done so already), talk with your provider about its benefits and risks.

Depo Provera

Findings on Depo Provera have shown no impact on breast cancer risk overall [38,42-43].

However, a possible increase in risk has been found among current, longer-term users compared to women who never used Depo Provera [42-43].

Hormone-releasing IUDs

Findings on hormone-releasing IUDs and breast cancer are mixed. Some show these IUDs have no impact on breast cancer risk [44-45]. Others show hormone-releasing IUDs increase risk by about 20 percent (similar to birth control pills) [38].

Other findings suggest past use of hormone-releasing IUDs may increase breast cancer risk after menopause [46]. 

Birth control patch and vaginal ring

The birth control patch and vaginal ring do not appear to increase breast cancer risk [38]. However, data are limited.

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Komen Perspectives

Read our perspective on birth control pills and breast cancer risk.*

*Please note, the information provided within Komen Perspectives articles is only current as of the date of posting. Therefore, some information may be out of date.

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