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Oral Contraceptives Not Associated with Increased Risk of Breast or Ovarian Cancers in BRCA1/2 Carriers

The use of oral contraceptives is not associated with an increased risk of developing breast or ovarian cancers in women with the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genetic mutations or those with a strong family history of the cancers. These results were recently published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Women diagnosed with the BRCA1 and/or BRCA2 genetic mutations have a significantly increased risk of developing breast and ovarian cancers within their lifetime, compared to the general population. Often, women who test positive for either or both of these genetic mutations take drastic measures to reduce their risk of developing these types of cancers, such as the removal of both breasts and/or ovaries. Sometimes, women with either of these mutations will maintain a strict and frequent screening schedule for early detection of cancer. The way in which women decide to deal with their mutations and subsequent risk of cancer development is one of a personal nature. Furthermore, women with a strong family history of either or both of these cancers also have a significantly increased risk of developing the cancers within their lifetime and may also choose to undergo invasive measures to reduce their risk.

Researchers recently conducted a clinical study to explore the potential of the risk of developing breast or ovarian cancers among women with the BRCA1 and/or BRCA2 mutations or those who have a strong family history of these cancers who have used oral contraceptives. Since oral contraceptives contain hormones and hormones are implicated in the growth of some types of breast or ovarian cancers, researchers have questioned their use and their possible role in the risk of causing these cancers.

The study included the examination of data from studies published from 2000 to 2012 that evaluated an association between oral contraceptive (OC) use and the development of breast and ovarian cancers. The women in the studies had BRCA1/2 mutations or a strong family history of the cancers.

Women with the BRCA1 and/or BRCA2 mutations who had ever used OCs did not have an increased rate of breast or ovarian cancers compared to the general population.
Data from the studies that included women with a strong family history did not point to any increases in breast or ovarian cancers associated with OC use.
The studies did not include enough data to determine if the length of use or the timing of OC use was associated with differing outcomes in terms of cancer incidence among these women.
The researchers concluded that “Our analyses suggest that associations between ever use of OCs and ovarian and breast cancer among women who are BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation carriers are similar to those reported for the general population.”

Reference: Moorman P, Havrilesky L, Gierisch J, et al. Oral contraceptives and risk of ovarian cancer and breast cancer among high-risk women: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Clinical Oncology. Published online before print October 21, 2013, doi: 10.1200/JCO.2013.48.9021