According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around 65% of women ages 15 to 49 are currently using some form of birth control. Besides preventing pregnancy, birth control can regulate menstrual cycles and help manage endometriosis.
But it has also been linked to a disease that affects one in eight women: Breast cancer.
Age, family history, and having dense breasts can all increase your risk for breast cancer -- and so can certain birth control pills while you’re taking them, according to Shelley Tworoger, Associate Center Director of Population Science at Moffitt Cancer Center.
A study from the UK found all hormonal contraceptives increase the risk of breast cancer by 20% to 30%. That risk increases with certain factors.
“For some women, it’s OK and other women, it’s not,” Tworoger said.
One of those factors is age. For example, for women ages 16 to 25 taking birth control, there would be eight new cases of breast cancer per 100,000 women. For women ages 35 to 39, that number jumps to 264 per 100,000.
Also, the length of time matters. There were twice as many cases of breast cancer in women who took birth control for 10 years compared to those who took it for less than a year.
However, birth control still produces a lower risk of breast cancer than drinking alcohol and smoking. Also, that risk, Tworoger said, “seems to go away once you stop.”
So, experts say to talk to your doctor to determine whether the risk of breast cancer outweighs the benefits of birth control.
Birth control is not only linked to an increase in breast cancer, but it can also increase your risk for blood clots and strokes. However, birth control can lower your risk for ovarian cancer, endometrial cancer and colon cancer.