Oral contraceptive use, hormone replacement therapy, reproductive history and risk of colorectal cancer in women

Int J Cancer. 2008 Feb 1;122(3):643-6. doi: 10.1002/ijc.23079.


Evidence from epidemiologic studies suggests a possible role of exogenous and endogenous hormones in colorectal carcinogenesis in women. However, with respect to exogenous hormones, in contrast to hormone replacement therapy, few cohort studies have examined oral contraceptive use in relation to colorectal cancer risk. We used data from a large cohort study of Canadian women enrolled in a randomized controlled trial of breast cancer screening to assess the association of oral contraceptive use, hormone replacement therapy and reproductive factors with risk of colorectal cancer, overall and by subsite within the colorectum. Cancer incidence and mortality were ascertained by linkage to national databases. Among 89,835 women aged 40-59 at enrollment and followed for an average of 16.4 years, we identified 1,142 incident colorectal cancer cases. Proportional hazards models were used to estimate the associations between the exposures of interest and risk of colorectal cancer. Ever use of oral contraceptives at baseline was associated with a modest reduction in the risk of colorectal cancer (hazard ratio 0.83, 95% confidence interval 0.73-0.94), with similar effects for different subsites within the colorectum. No trend was seen in the hazard ratios with increasing duration of oral contraceptive use. No associations were seen with use of hormone replacement therapy (ever use or duration of use) or reproductive factors. Our results are suggestive of an inverse association between oral contraceptive use and colorectal carcinogenesis. However, given the lack of a dose-response relationship and the potential for confounding, studies with more complete assessment of exogenous hormone use throughout the life course are needed to clarify this association.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Canada / epidemiology
  • Cohort Studies
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / etiology
  • Contraceptives, Oral / therapeutic use*
  • Drug Utilization
  • Female
  • Hormone Replacement Therapy*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Reproductive History*
  • Risk Factors


  • Contraceptives, Oral