Beyond the pill: contraception and the prevention of hereditary ovarian cancer

Hered Cancer Clin Pract. 2022 Jun 6;20(1):21. doi: 10.1186/s13053-022-00227-z.


BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutation carriers face an elevated lifetime risk of developing ovarian cancer. Oral contraceptives have been shown to significantly decrease the risk of ovarian cancer by approximately 50% in this high-risk population. Changes in contraceptive formulations and patterns of use over time have introduced lower hormonal dosages, different steroid types and non-oral routes of administration. Specifically, there has been a considerable shift in patterns of contraceptive use and the increase in the uptake of non-oral, long-acting, reversible contraception (e.g., intrauterine devices, implants, injections) has corresponded to a decline in oral contraceptive pill use. Whether or not these other methods confer a protective effect against ovarian cancer in the general population is not clear. To our knowledge, there have been no such studies conducted among BRCA mutation carriers. Furthermore, the impact of these changes on the risk of developing ovarian cancer is not known. In this article, we will review the existing epidemiologic evidence regarding the role of contraceptives and the risk of ovarian cancer with a focus on women with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation. We will discuss recent findings and gaps in the knowledge while extrapolating from studies conducted among women from the noncarrier population.

Keywords: BRCA; Case-control; Contraception; Intrauterine device; Ovarian cancer.

Publication types

  • Review