Oral contraceptive use and cancer. Findings in a large cohort study, 1968-2004

Br J Cancer. 2006 Aug 7;95(3):385-9. doi: 10.1038/sj.bjc.6603260. Epub 2006 Jul 4.


We examined cancer incidence in relation to oral contraceptive (OC) use in the Oxford Family Planning Association contraceptive study. The study includes 17032 women, recruited at family planning clinics at ages 25-39 years between 1968 and 1974, who were using OCs, a diaphragm, or an intrauterine device. Follow-up data were available until 2004. OC use was not significantly related to nonreproductive cancer. Breast cancer findings (844 cases) likewise were very reassuring (rate ratio (RR) comparing women ever using OCs with those never doing so 1.0, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.8-1.1). There was a strong positive relationship between cervical cancer incidence (59 cases) and duration of OC use (RR comparing users for 97+ months with nonusers 6.1, 95%CI, 2.5-17.9). Uterine body cancer (77 cases) and ovarian cancer (106 cases) showed strong negative associations with duration of OC use: RRs for 97+ months of use were 0.1 (95%CI, 0.0-0.4) and 0.3 (95%CI, 0.1-0.5) respectively. This apparent protective effect for both cancers persisted more than 20 years after stopping OCs. Combining data for cancers of the cervix, uterine body and ovary, the age adjusted RR for women ever using OCs compared with those never doing so was 0.7 (95%CI, 0.5-0.8). Beneficial effects of OCs on the gynaecological cancers thus outweighed adverse effects.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cohort Studies
  • Contraceptives, Oral / adverse effects
  • Contraceptives, Oral / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Neoplasms / chemically induced
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Risk Factors


  • Contraceptives, Oral