Can Birth Control Help Reduce The Risk Of Cancer?

Birth control is a common method of family planning, and it might also be taken for a variety of other purposes — to clear up skin, establish period regularity, or help control various medical conditions such as anemia, painful menstrual cramps, endometriosis, or polycystic ovarian syndrome, for instance. 

There are various types of birth control, both hormonal and non-hormonal. Hormonal methods alter the levels of hormones in the body — this makes it more tricky for sperm to fertilize an egg, thus preventing ovulation, per Healthline. Birth control pills, patches, and injections are just a few examples of hormonal methods. Non-hormonal methods, on the other hand, create a physical barrier that prevents sperm from reaching the egg, says the source. Some good examples include condoms and diaphragms. When used correctly, many of these methods guarantee high protection against pregnancy. 

In addition, new research shows that some birth control might even offer some form of protection against certain cancers.

Taking birth control reduces the risk of some cancers

Research shows that certain types of birth control can help reduce the risk of ovarian and endometrial cancer. Ovarian cancer develops in the ovaries, the region of the female reproductive organs where eggs are produced, says the Mayo Clinic. As it turns out, using birth control pills can reduce your risk of ovarian cancer by as much as 50%, according to a 2022 research review published in the journal Gynäkologisch-geburtshilfliche Rundschau.

Endometrial cancer usually develops in the lining of the womb, also known as the endometrium, explains the National Health Service (NHS). According to the National Cancer Institute, using birth control pills may also reduce the risk of endometrial cancer, says a 2017 study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Interestingly, the risk of developing such cancers was still reduced even many years after stopping, says the study.

Can taking birth control increase the risk of certain cancers?

Although birth control may help prevent certain cancers, taking birth control may slightly increase the risk of other cancer types. A 2018 review published in the journal found about a 20% increase in the risk of breast cancer among women who have used hormonal birth control — particularly those who have used it for more than five years. The risk even continued for up to five years after discontinuing use of the birth control. However, this risk decreases once you stop using birth control. This association between breast cancer and birth control may be due to the synthetic versions of female hormones which certain contraceptives carry, explains the National Cancer Institute.

Another 2020 article published in the journal Anti-Cancer Research suggests that long-term use of hormonal birth control may increase the risk of cervical cancer, particularly in women who have also been infected with the human papillomavirus (HPV). If you are concerned about the potential risks of birth control, it's always best to speak to your doctor. They can help you choose a birth control method appropriate for your needs and medical history.