Breast cancer and the pill--a further report from the Royal College of General Practitioners' oral contraception study

Br J Cancer. 1988 Nov;58(5):675-80. doi: 10.1038/bjc.1988.285.


An analysis of the occurrence of breast cancer in this long-term prospective cohort study shows a significant relative risk (RR) in women who have ever used oral contraceptives (OC) of 3.33 in women age 30 to 34 years at diagnosis and an RR of 5.88 (P = 0.0011) in women who were parity 1 at the time of diagnosis. In women below the age of 35 years the RR of 2.38 was not significant. There was no increased risk in women over the age of 35 years. A significant trend relating to duration of use was demonstrable in women who were parity 1 in the analysis of both current and ever-users. An analysis by time since stopping OC use revealed a significant trend in all ever-users, but the trends were much steeper in women of parity 1 or aged 30 to 34 years at diagnosis. There was no evidence that the increased rates in OC users were related to the oestrogen or progestogen dose. The 5 year survival rate in users diagnosed under the age of 35 years was significantly poorer than in comparable non-users. It is possible that the increased rates in younger OC users might be due to an accelerated presentation of breast cancer in those women who would otherwise have been diagnosed at a later time. The non-significant excess risk in users under 35 years of age was approximately 1 in 7,000 users per year. The unresolved discrepancies between the results of the published studies make it impossible at the present time to decide whether or not OC use is associated with an increased risk of breast cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Breast Neoplasms / chemically induced*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Contraceptives, Oral / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Risk Factors


  • Contraceptives, Oral