My 23 year old patient has cancer in her family: her mother had breast cancer, and her paternal grandmother had ovarian cancer. Is it OK for her to take oral contraceptives?
2nd year Family Medicine resident
Contraceptive Pearl Answer:
Fear of cancer prevents many women from using hormonal contraceptives. However, contrary to popular belief, oral contraceptives (OC) do not raise women’s overall risk of cancer. In fact, OC use has been associated with significant reductions in ovarian and endometrial cancer. Current OC use may slightly increase breast cancer risk, but this risk disappears 5-10 years after women stop taking OCs. Even for BRCA1/2 carriers, the overall risk of breast and ovarian cancer is lower on OCs.
What’s the bottom line? Women currently being treated for breast or liver cancer cannot take OCs. However, women with a family history of cancer can take OCs: the pill’s cancer-related benefits outweigh its risks.
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The Reproductive Health Access Project does not accept funding from pharmaceutical companies. We do not promote specific brands of medication or contraception. The information in the Contraceptive Pearls is unbiased, based on science alone.