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According to Amsterdam researchers, young women who are at increased risk of breast cancer and ovarian cancer due to genetic mutations can continue to use birth control pills safely until they are about 25 years old.
Next, it is important that they are properly informed about their particular condition, the scientists of the Netherlands Cancer Institute (NKI) recommended.
Both harmful and beneficial effects
The use of oral contraceptives has unfavorable and beneficial effects: the risk of developing breast cancer increases by almost a quarter, while the risk of ovarian and uterine cancer decreases by half. Until now, it wasn’t clear what the wisdom would be for women who have a mutation in their genes called BRCA1 or BRCA2. These abnormalities cause 5 to 10 percent of all breast cancer cases, according to previous studies. About 70 percent of women with these mutations develop breast cancer at some point in their lives. The chance of developing ovarian cancer is 35 to 45 percent with BRCA1 and 10 to 20 percent with BRCA2.
The study now shows that oral contraceptive use has little effect on cancer risk in teens and young adults. In the long term, the beneficial effects are stronger: The pill prevents more cases of cancer in the high-risk group than it causes them. The situation is different for women aged 25-30 years: the risk of developing breast cancer increases even more, while the protective effect against ovarian and uterine cancer occurs only later.
Women with a BRCA mutation
Therefore, women with a BRCA mutation have to make a decision, according to Anthony van Leeuwenhoek, of whom the NKI is affiliated. “Do they think an increased risk of cancer in the short term is acceptable, given the benefits of the contraceptive pill and their already high cancer risk, or do they want to avoid increasing the risk by switching to non-hormonal contraceptives, such as condoms or a contraceptive method? Is it hormonal?
Due to the high risk, the breasts and/or ovaries of many women with BRCA are removed as a precaution. As a result, the risks of birth control pills also change dramatically. For example, there is no longer an increased risk of developing breast cancer after a prophylactic mastectomy.
After prophylactic ovarian removal, the benefits of birth control pills largely disappear. “The more effective the preventative surgery, the worse the effect of previous birth control pill use. This is because birth control pill use still leads to more breast cancer, while ovarian cancer prevention is little or no. In the Scientific Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
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