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New study re: hormonal contraception – risk should always be presented in a way that contextualises it.

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22 March 2023

new study suggests use of any hormonal method slightly increases risk of breast cancer, but the absolute increase is small. Sixty years after the pill was introduced, we still are waiting for innovation in contraception, but abortion laws are holding research back.

Katherine O’Brien, BPAS Spokesperson:

“Risk should always be presented in a way that contextualises it. This new study suggests that use of any hormonal method, so progestogen-only methods as well, slightly increases risk of breast cancer, but the absolute increase is small.

For example, among those aged 25-29, the estimated risk of breast cancer over a 15 year period is 0.57% among those using oral contraceptives, compared with a risk of 0.5% among non-users. Crucially, across all age groups, the study found no increased risk of breast cancer 10 years after stopping the use of oral contraception.

Moreover, there is a significant body of evidence which indicates an association between combined oral contraceptives and reduced risk of other cancers, including ovarian cancer.

The oral contraceptive pill is a safe, effective method of contraception. There are more contraceptive options on the market but, aside from the copper coil, all prescription methods are variations on the same synthetic hormones that have been used since the 1960s.

A once-a-month pill which works after a fertilised egg has implanted in the lining of the womb has the potential to be a real game-changer. The pill could be taken only if a woman missed a period, so they could avoid taking medication continuously as they must do currently.

A previous BPAS survey of more than 1,000 women found half (48.4%) would consider a once-a-month pill that would detach any fertilised egg from the lining of the womb. However, under the current law in the UK and many other countries, any method which works after an egg has implanted is classed as an abortion. This means that a woman could be jailed for using such a pill.

This is yet another reason why our abortion laws, which strip a woman of legal rights over her own body from the moment implantation, need to be reformed.”

 

ENDS

For further information, please contact Katherine O’Brien, BPAS Associate Director of Campaigns and Communications, on katherine.o’brien@bpas.org or 07881 265276.

About BPAS

The British Pregnancy Advisory Service, BPAS, is a charity that sees over 100,000 women a year for reproductive healthcare services including pregnancy counselling, abortion care, miscarriage management and contraception at clinics across Great Britain.

BPAS exists to further women’s reproductive choices. We believe all women should have the right to make their own decisions in and around pregnancy, from the contraception they use to avoid pregnancy right the way through to how they decide to feed their newborn baby, with access to evidence-based information to underpin their choices and high-quality services and support to exercise them. 

BPAS also runs the Centre for Reproductive Research and Communication, CRRC. Through rigorous multidisciplinary research and impactful communication, the CRRC aims to inform policy, practice, and public discourse. You can find out more here.