A recent Danish study shows that women on any kind of hormonal birth control are susceptible to an increased risk of breast cancer, upending the common belief that modern methods of hormonal birth control are safer than those of decades past.
The research published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine included a group of 1.8 million women between the ages of 15-49 over the course of more than ten years. Of the 1.8 million, there were 11,517 cases of breast cancer.
According to NPR, the leader of the study, Lina Morch, said it found “a roughly 20 percent increased risk [of breast cancer] among women who currently use some type of hormonal contraception” compared to those who used non-hormal contraceptives.
Additionally, the research found that for every 100,000 women on hormonal birth control, there are 68 cases of breast cancer every year, compared to 55 among those not using hormonal birth control.
The study highlights modern methods of birth control, including pills, intrauterine devices which release hormones, and other implants.
While the link to breast cancer from older methods of birth control was widely known, this study was able to provide evidence that even modern methods of hormonal birth control, such as hormone releasing IUDs, are still causing breast cancer in women.
“This is an important study because we had no idea how the modern day pills compared to the old-fashioned pills in terms of breast cancer risk, and we didn’t know anything about I.U.D.’s,” said Dr. Marisa Weiss, an oncologist, according to the New York Times.
“…if you add up all the millions of women taking the pill, it is a significant public health concern,” Weiss continued.
The study’s authors did note that factors such as physical activity, breastfeeding, and alcohol consumption were not taken into account during the study, which could also be linked to the increase of breast cancer cases.
An epidemiologist also noted that the contraceptive pill is also linked to a reduced risk of ovarian, endometrial, and perhaps colorectal cancers.
The study, while providing crucial information on the increased risks of breast cancer with hormonal birth control usage, adds to the growing list of side effects common with even modern methods contraception.
A Swedish study released last spring found that birth control pills are linked with a decrease in women’s overall health and well-being. Last fall, another Danish study showed a strong connection between hormonal contraception and depression, particularly among teens.
Some women have opted for another form of birth control, without the hormonal side effects: metal coils. However, this form of contraception is not without its own set of risks, including chronic pain, nickel poisoning, exhaustion, and the risk of perforated organs.
While the Catholic Church upholds its long-taught beliefs that contraception is immoral because it divorces procreation from the sexual act, it does approve of Natural Family Planning, which allows couples to remain open to life.
More women are opting for NFP methods, or fertility awareness tracking, because of its hormone-free, health-conscious promise. Fertility awareness methods, such as the Creighton Model or Billings Method, are natural ways to achieve or delay pregnancy with an effectiveness rating competitive with the pill.