Breast cancer and the combined pill
This article is for someone who wants to buy the combined contraceptive pill online, but has someone in their family with breast cancer.
Should I take the pill if I have a family history of breast cancer?
In most cases a family history of breast cancer will not affect the safety of the combined pill. However, if your family is known to carry a faulty gene, the combined pill may possibly increase this risk further and is best avoided.
How can the combined pill increase my risk of cancer?
Those taking the combined contraceptive pill over long periods of time may have a slightly increased risk of breast cancer and cervical cancer. According to Breast Cancer Now, in a group of 10,000 women who do not use the combined pill, about 40 will probably develop breast cancer between the ages of 30 and 39.
In a group of 10,000 women who do use the combined pill for most of their 30s, about 54 will develop breast cancer between the ages of 30 and 39. So using the combined pill during this time causes about 14 extra cases of breast cancer in every 10,000 women*.
The link between the pill and breast cancer risk is not yet clear, but it is thought the hormones in the combined contraceptive pill (oestrogen and progestogen) can increase the growth of some breast cancers.
This risk falls again once you stop taking the combined contraceptive pill, and 10 years after stopping, the person’s risk is no longer increased.
Does taking the mini-pill affect cancer risk?
Research is ongoing into any relationship between breast cancer and the progestogen-only pill (mini-pill), such as Cerazette. Right now we don’t have enough evidence to suggest that it doesn't increase the risk, but if there is an increased risk it is likely to be very small.
For those women with a family history of breast cancer, taking the progestogen-only pill is unlikely to increase the risk of breast cancer.
Are you at risk?
Breast cancer is very common and most of us will know at least one person with it. It usually happens in women unexpectedly but we also know that some patterns of cancer in a family give a clue to the existence of the faulty gene.
If any of the following family history patterns apply to you, please consult your GP before ordering the combined pill.
Breast cancer has been found in:
- Any man in your family
- Three close relatives of any age (grandparents, aunts/uncles, nieces/nephews)
- Your mother or sister, under the age of 40
- Your mother or sister in both breasts, first diagnosed before the age of 50
- Your mother or sister, and one other close relative at any age
- One close relative, and ovarian cancer is found in another close relative
And your risk may also be higher if you have:
- A faulty gene, such as BRCA (for more information consult your GP)
- Jewish ancestry, especially Ashkenazi Jewish
- Rare cancers in close relatives, such as sarcomas, gliomas or childhood adrenal cortical carcinomas
- Complicated patterns of multiple cancers in your family at a young age.
What should you do if you're at risk?
If you fall into any of the patterns or groups above, then you should have a chat with your GP to discuss whether a referral to a breast or genetic clinic is worthwhile. This is especially important if you are over 35 years of age. You should not buy the combined pill from us until you’re happy about your own risk of breast cancer.
If you are currently taking the pill but are in one of the at-risk groups; please don’t just stop the combined pill. Talk to your GP first, as it may be fine for you to continue.