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

Birth Control Pills

Current or recent use of birth control pills (oral contraceptives) is linked to a slight increase in the risk of breast cancer [10,36-39].

Studies show while women are taking birth control pills (and shortly after), their breast cancer risk is 20-30 percent higher than women who’ve never used the pill [36,38-39].

However, this extra risk is quite small because the risk of breast cancer for most young women is low [36,38-39]. So, even with a slightly higher risk from taking the pill, most young women are unlikely to get breast cancer.

Once women stop taking the pill, their risk of breast cancer begins to decrease [36,39]. Over time, risk returns to that of women who have never taken the pill [36,39].   

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

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

However, in addition to preventing pregnancy, birth control pills also decrease the risk of uterine and ovarian cancers [40-42].

Lower-dose birth control pills

Overall, today’s lower-dose pills are linked to an increased breast cancer risk just like older forms of the pill [39].

Progestin-only pills (mini-pills)

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

Noresthisterone mini-pills don’t appear to be linked to breast cancer risk [39].

Before using any type of birth control pills (or if you’re 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. However, data on these topics, especially studies with long-term follow-up, are limited. These topics are still under study.

Before using any type of birth control with hormones (or if you’re 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 link to breast cancer risk overall [39,43-44].

However, a possible increase in risk has been found among current, longer-term users compared to women who’ve never used Depo Provera [43-44].

Hormone-releasing IUDs

Findings on hormone-releasing IUDs and breast cancer are mixed. Some studies show IUDs are not related to breast cancer risk [45-46]. Others show women who use hormone-releasing IUDs may have about a 20 percent increased risk of breast cancer (similar to birth control pills) [39].

Other findings suggest women who used hormone-releasing IUDs in the past may have an increased risk of breast cancer after menopause [47].

Birth control patch and vaginal ring

The birth control patch and the vaginal ring don’t appear to be linked to breast cancer risk [39]. 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.

Updated 02/24/21

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