What Types of Birth Control Are Known to Cause Cancer?

By Jeff Wysaski

  • Overview

    Birth control pills have been a popular form of contraception since their introduction in the 1960s. However, scientific studies are beginning to draw alarming parallels between birth control pills and cancer. The majority of these studies have focused on oral contraceptives and their relation to breast cancer.
  • Considerations

    First, it is important to note that no type of birth control is explicitly known to cause cancer. Different studies have yielded conflicting results that so far have made a direct link to the disease difficult to pinpoint. This is likely because a number of factors can compound to increase the risk of breast cancer.
  • Identification

    That said, a number of studies indicate that birth control pills increase an individual's risk for cancer. A 1996 study performed by the Collaborative Group on Hormonal Factors in Breast Cancer found that participants who began taking oral contraceptives at an early age were at the highest risk. The same study also concluded that a 10-year hiatus from taking oral contraceptives causes the cancer risk to return to normal.


  • Theories/Speculation

    Experts believe that a link between oral contraceptives and breast cancer may be a result of increased estrogen and progesterone. These hormones are known to affect growth and development of the breast tissue. As such, newer oral contraceptives have been reformulated to include lower levels of these hormones. In theory, this makes newer prescription drugs less dangerous than older drugs.
  • Types

    There are two types of birth control pills. The most common is a combined oral contraceptive that includes estrogen and progesterone. The second is a mini-pill that includes only progesterone. The majority of concern placed on birth control and breast cancer has been placed on the combined contraceptives.
  • Brands

    There are dozens of combined contraceptive pills that are potentially linked to breast cancer. Some of the most popular include Alesse, Levora, Loestrin, Ortho Tri-Clycen, Seasonale, Yasmin and Yaz.
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