NWHN Statement on Contemporary Hormonal Contraception and the Risk of Breast Cancer

The following statement can be attributed to Cynthia A. Pearson, Executive Director of the National Women’s Health Network.

The Danish Sex Hormone Registry study on the risk of breast cancer with current hormonal contraception provides valuable information to help people making decisions about contraception. The study found that current hormonal contraceptives are associated with a small increased risk of breast cancer. This isn’t shocking. Many previous studies, although not all, have also found a small increased risk of breast cancer associated with oral contraceptives. The Danish study is helpful because it adds new information about current low dose oral contraceptives and hormonal IUDs. People who use these contraceptive methods and the clinicians who counsel them now have more facts with which to make informed decisions about how to manage their health.

“The NWHN applauds Danish researchers for new study, calls on the US government to also treat contraception as an important health issue.”

It’s disappointing that we have to look overseas for the answers to important questions about contraception and cancer. The US, where oral contraceptives were developed and first approved, was the leading source of research on contraception for many years. But not now.

In the United States, this study brings into light the damage being done by the Trump-Pence administration’s lies and destructive policies. Instead of promoting access to scientifically sound information about the benefits and risks of contraception to help women make informed choices about their health, administration officials lie about the safety and efficacy of hormonal contraception as part of a larger ideological war on family planning. And new rules issued by the administration—predicated on false and misleading medical claims—give employers permission to drop contraceptive coverage from their employees’ health insurance plans.

The NWHN recently submitted comments in opposition to these rules that stated clearly, "We believe that women should be informed of risks [associated with hormonal contraception], but that patients and health care providers, not employers and agencies, should determine the right contraceptive for an individual woman’s health care needs."

We applaud the researchers who undertook this study, and the many Danish government officials who have supported policies like universal health care, comprehensive sex ed and access to contraceptives that made the study possible. Without those policies, we wouldn’t have the Danish Sex Hormone Registry, and we wouldn’t have this important information about hormonal contraceptives and breast cancer.

The National Women’s Health Network is supported by our members and by choice we do not accept financial support from drug companies or medical device manufacturers. We bring the voices, concerns, and needs of women consumers to policy and regulatory tables.

Cindy Pearson was the NWHN’s Executive Director from 1996 to 2021. One of the nation's leading advocates for women's health, Cindy often testified before Congress,  NIH and the FDA and was frequently featured in the news as a consumer expert on women’s health issues. When she retired, Cindy received a Congressional Resolution in honor of her outstanding contributions to the health of women and girls.

Read more from Cindy Pearson.