The use of oral contraceptives has been found to have a significant association with the development of an often fatal form of breast cancer. This is according to a report published in the April 2009 issue of Cancer, Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, a leading cancer journal. These results present a new challenge to scientists in the field of breast cancer research.
The type of breast cancer identified as a major risk with this type of contraception is called “triple negative” breast cancer. The new study involved over 1200 women aged 20 to 45 and found a “distinct etiology” or an example of cause and effect between the use of The Pill for over a year and the development of the deadly cancer. The correlation was even stronger in women who took these contraceptives before the age of 18.
Lead author of the study, Jessica Dolle, in tandem with other scientific researchers at Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, discovered that using The Pill for a year or longer, “was associated with a 2.7-fold increased risk for triple-negative breast cancer.” This form of breast cancer is a cancer subtype that has a very high mortality rate. Thus far, there is little hope for finding a cure.
The study also found other factors along with oral contraceptive use that contributed to the risk for developing breast cancer. These factors include age, a family history for breast cancer, getting the first menstrual period (menarche) at an earlier age, and induced abortion. While some of these factors were known to be probable contributory factors in developing breast cancer, according to the report, “Our study has the strength of being population-based and is the largest of its kind to evaluate breast cancer subtypes and etiologic [contributory factor] differences in young women.”
The study found that the danger was highest in women over the age of forty. But oral contraceptive use for more than one year was found to raise the risk for triple-negative breast cancer fourfold.
Meantime, the National Cancer Institute has for years denied that there is a true link between the use of oral contraceptives and breast cancer. One study sited on its website shows only that oral contraceptives are associated with a “slightly elevated risk” for the development of breast cancer. A second study cited by the institute says that oral contraceptives, “did not significantly increase,” the risk for getting breast cancer. Yet another study referred to on the website says that women diagnosed with cancer within five years of oral contraceptive use, in particular young women, were found to have the highest risk for breast cancer.