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Young women who are considering their contraception options may want to think twice before using the progestin-only injections of Depo-Provera. Also known as the birth control shot, it is given 4 times a year to prevent conception in sexually active women. According to a new study published in the journal Cancer Research on April 15, the injections of medroxyprogesterone acetate when used for a year or longer, causes a 2.2-fold greater risk of invasive breast cancer.
The study was done at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and covered 919 women who had never been diagnosed with breast cancer, and 1028 young women who had developed breast cancer. In women who stopped having Depo-Provera injections, their risk for breast cancer dropped to the average lifetime risk. The scientists did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship between the Depo-Provera and the development of breast cancer, but they did notice an association between the two.
This study may not have taken other risk factors into the equation -- such as having a family history of breast or ovarian cancers, having delayed pregnancy, or use of tobacco and alcohol, and it may be that women who were already at higher risk were those who went on to develop invasive breast tumors. Adding more progestin to their risk factors may have tipped the scale on the health of these women - and that is what this study did not quite cover.
Other options used to prevent conception, such as birth control pills, condoms, and spermacides, may be less risky for women who are already at above-average risk for breast cancer. Studies like this make it clear that it is important to know your personal health history and risk for cancer, so you can make wise choices and tailor your lifestyle to guard your health.
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