A recent study suggests that the use of progestogen-only (hormonal) contraceptives could slightly increase the risk of developing breast cancer.
Researchers examined the risk of breast cancer in premenopausal women who were current or recent users of progestogen-only contraceptives. The study used data from the Clinical Practice Research Datalink (CPRD), which contains medical records for more than 11 million individuals in the UK.
The study used a nested case-control design to investigate the association between hormonal contraceptives and invasive breast cancer. The participants included women aged 20 to 49 years who had been diagnosed with invasive breast cancer between January 1, 1996, and September 20, 2017. The researchers used CPRD Read codes to define invasive breast cancer.
Each case was matched with two controls based on the index date, year of birth, general practice, and observation period. Cases and controls were required to have a minimum of 12 months of follow-up before the index date.
Women who had one or more prescriptions for a hormonal contraceptive during the observation period were considered as having a prescription, while those without a prescription were defined as non-users. Women with a prescription less than 12 months before the index date were classified as current users of oral contraceptives.
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Prescription classifications included oral combined contraceptive, oral progestogen-only contraceptive, injectable progestogen, progestogen implant, and progestogen-releasing intrauterine device (IUD).
The study analyzed 9,498 cases of breast cancer with 18,171 matched controls. Two percent of cases and controls were aged under 30 years, 21% aged 30 to 39 years, and 77% aged 40 to 49 years.
The study found that women with at least one hormonal contraceptive prescription were at a greater risk of developing breast cancer. The average time between the last hormonal prescription and breast cancer development was 3.1 years.
The odds ratios (ORs) for breast cancer were 1.23 for oral combined, 1.26 for oral progestogen-only, 1.25 for injectable progestogen, 1.22 for progestogen implant, and 1.32 for progestogen IUD. These ORs indicated significantly raised risks for each of these hormonal contraceptive prescriptions.
Side Effects of Hormonal Contraceptives
Hormonal contraceptives are a popular form of birth control that includes pills, patches, injections, and intrauterine devices (IUDs) that release hormones. While these methods are effective in preventing pregnancy, they can have some side effects. Here are some of the most common side effects associated with hormonal contraceptives:
- Nausea: Hormonal contraceptives can cause mild to severe nausea, especially when a woman first starts using them.
- Headaches: contraceptives can cause headaches in some women.
- Mood changes: contraceptives can cause mood swings, including depression, anxiety, and irritability.
- Weight gain: Some women may experience weight gain when using hormonal contraceptives.
- Irregular periods: Hormonal contraceptives can cause changes in a woman’s menstrual cycle, including lighter or heavier periods, spotting, and irregular bleeding.
- Decreased libido: Some women may experience a decrease in sex drive when using contraceptives.
- Blood clots: contraceptives can increase the risk of blood clots, which can be life-threatening.
- Breast tenderness: Some women may experience breast tenderness or enlargement when using contraceptives.
- Acne: Hormonal contraceptives can cause acne in some women.
- Yeast infections: Hormonal contraceptives can increase the risk of yeast infections.
It’s important to note that not all women will experience these side effects, and some women may experience no side effects at all. If you are experiencing any of these side effects or have concerns about hormonal contraceptives, talk to your healthcare provider. They can help you choose the best form of birth control for your needs and discuss ways to manage any side effects.
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