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Birth control pills with high doses of estrogen have been linked to a higher risk of breast cancer — especially pills with more than 50-mcg of estrogen, such as Ovral, Ovcon, and more.

What is the problem?

Birth control pills, also known as “oral contraceptives,” contain a combination of hormones that reduce the chance of pregnancy. Most contain estrogen and progestin, but there are many different synthetic versions of these hormones in different types of pills.

The problem is that high doses of estrogen in birth control pills has been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer in several studies. Normally, estrogen is released during pregnancy to stimulate the breasts to grow and produce milk. Estrogen in birth control pills also stimulates breast growth.

Experts from the National Institute of Health (NIH) warn:

“Proliferation of normal cells from exposure to estrogen creates a vulnerability to spontaneous mutations, some of which might represent a first step on the pathway to cancer.”

Unfortunately, every time a cell grows and divides, there is a small chance that it will make a mistake (mutation) when it replicates its DNA. In rare cases, the mutation causes a cell to start dividing and growing uncontrollably. Eventually, this results in a mass of cells called a tumor.

The more cell growth in the breasts, the higher the risk of breast cancer. Some women are more susceptible than others — especially women with BRCA1 or BRCA2, which are hereditary risk-factors seen in 5-10% of all cases of breast cancer.

Study Links Birth Control Pills and Breast Cancer

August 2014 — Cancer Research has published a study linking the use of birth control pills with a 50% increased risk of breast cancer. The risk varied depending on the type of birth control pill the woman took:

  • High-dose estrogen birth control pills (50-mcg or more) associated with a 2.7-fold breast cancer risk.
  • Moderate-dose estrogen birth control pills (30-35 mcg) associated with a 1.6-fold breast cancer risk.
  • Birth control pills with ethynodiol diacetate (such as Continuin or Femulen) linked to a 2.6-fold breast cancer risk.
  • Triphasic combination pills with an average of 0.75-mg of norethindrone linked to 3.1-fold breast cancer risk.
  • No increased risk of breast cancer from low-dose estrogen birth control pills.

Conclusions of the study were based on data from 1,102 women between the ages of 20 and 49 who were diagnosed with breast cancer from 1990-2009. Controls were randomly sampled from nearly 22,000 women in the same age range who did not have breast cancer. Click here to read more.

Symptoms of Breast Cancer

  • Lump or hard marble in the breast
  • Swelling in the armpit
  • Change in skin texture on the breast
  • Unexplained swelling, shrinkage, flattening, or indentation of the breast.
  • Nipple tenderness, inversion, changes in skin texture
  • Nipple discharge (clear, bloody, or colored)
  • And more