Q: Do birth control pills cause cancer?
The short answer to this question? Probably not, according to most recent studies. In fact, birth control pills have been linked to a reduced risk of ovarian, endometrial, and colorectal cancers. However, some inconclusive research links birth control hormones to breast and cervical cancers. Some studies show no risk, while others show a very small risk, which is likely why you see this issue pop up in the media.
In women’s health care, we regularly screen people for cervical and breast cancer at their annual well-person exam. Cervical cancer screens begin at age 21, and breast cancer screens begin as early as age 40 for most women. Both are performed at specific intervals. Overall, the consensus is that birth control pills are very low risk for most women and that they do not increase the overall risk of cancer.
Birth control pills, like all medications, are not for every person. For women who want to protect themselves from unintended pregnancy and the emotional and physical health risks that involves, birth control pills can be a good option. Talk to a midwife to see if they are right for you. Midwives are experts in women’s health and can help you find a contraceptive option that works for your health and lifestyle.
—Irene Beach, CNM at Vancouver Clinic
Irene Beach holds a master of science in nursing with a specialty in nurse midwifery from Oregon Health & Science University.