There is widespread fear about the pill ‘causing cancer.’ Looking after your health is of paramount importance to you so knowing the benefits and risks of your contraception is an important step when making choices. Two recent UK studies suggest that the ‘combined pill’ is not associated with an increased cancer risk. Actually there is an overall reduction in cancer related deaths of 12% in women who have used the combined pill.

GYNAECOLOGICAL CANCER

The pill reduces the risk of uterine (usually endometrial) and ovarian cancer. More specifically taking the pill for three years reduces your risk of developing endometrial cancer by approximately 50%. After 5 years use there is a 20% decrease for the risk of developing ovarian cancer. Taking the combined pill for a decade reduces the risk of these cancers by 80%. This protective shield lasts for 2 decades after stopping.

BREAST CANCER

Breast cancer risk and the pill is a topical debate. A 1996 study found a link while a large case-control study in 2002 found no increased risk regardless of an individual’s age of starting, family history of breast cancer or duration of use. Any breast cancer risk possibly associated with taking the combined pill is probably very small.

CERVICAL CANCER

The risk of cervical cancer after 5 years is increased but is reduced after stopping the pill. Most cervical cancer is caused by a virus called human papillomavirus (HPV) and risks can be reduced with use of condoms, stopping smoking, having regular pap smears and receiving the HPV vaccine.

LIVER CANCER

There is a four-fold increase in the risk so which means there are only a few additional cases because of the already low background risk.

COLORECTAL CANCER RISK

There is a reduced risk of developing colorectal cancer for women taking the combined pill.

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LD

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