Austin doctors react to new study linking birth control to breast cancer

FILE - Contraception (KXAN File Photo)
FILE - Contraception (KXAN File Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A new study is sending some women into a panic.

It turns out those newer birth control pills don’t lower breast cancer risk. A study in a New England Journal of Medicine following nearly 2 million women found their risk jumped 20 percent. After 10 years, it grew to nearly 38 percent.

A link between hormonal contraceptives and cancer is nothing new in the medical world. But the new research out of Denmark surprised some local doctors.

“This was really new,” said Dr. Debra Patt, breast cancer specialist at Texas Oncology. “We thought that low dose hormonal oral contraceptives didn’t increase the risk of breast cancer.”

Austin doctors say this now changes the conversation with their patients. “Because now you’re not just talking about the risk of developing blood clots and venous thromboembolism, this is now one you’ve got to talk about because it’s really serious,” Patt said.

Doctors say it’s an important conversation to have, but on average doctors only have about 12 minutes per patient.

“There’s women out there who have breast cancer right now today and their form of breast cancer was estrogen driven there on a birth control for that perhaps had estrogen in it and that didn’t help,” said Suzanne Stone, director of Susan G. Komen Austin. “So when you go into your physician and you have 12 minutes of his or her time, it’s your valuable time, it’s their valuable time too but come prepared.”

Breast cancer is the second-biggest cancer killer of American women, after lung cancer. The American Cancer Society says every year it’s diagnosed in 200,000 women and a few men, and kills around 40,000.

Doctors say it’s important not to panic. They recommend doing your homework by looking into your family health history, conducting self breast exams and then contacting your doctor.

“I think that this will diminish utilization of oral contraceptives it won’t go away by any means but I will I bet it will affect it,” Dr. Patt says.

“We still have so far to go birth control and it’s effect on the female body is something we absolutely have to consider but it’s really important that I think every woman pauses and has that conversation one-on-one with your physician,” Stone said.

Some intrauterine devices (IUDs) do not employ hormones. Condoms and diaphragms do not deliver hormones either.

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