Search tips
Search criteria 


Logo of brjcancerBJC HomepageBJC Advance online publicationBJC Current IssueSubmitting an article to BJCWeb feeds
Br J Cancer. 1989 April; 59(4): 613–617.
PMCID: PMC2247164

Oral contraceptives and breast cancer: latest findings in a large cohort study.


During the interval 1968-74, 17,032 women aged 25-39 years were recruited to the Oxford-Family Planning Association contraceptive study, more than half of whom were using oral contraceptives. These women have been followed up over the years and breast cancer has been diagnosed in 189 of them. We have analysed the available data in two ways. First, we have calculated standardised breast cancer incidence rates in non-users and users of oral contraceptives according to total duration of use, interval since first use, interval since last use, duration of use before first term pregnancy and duration of use before age 25. Secondly, we have conducted case-control within cohort analyses to examine the possible effects of different types of pill and to search for evidence of a latent effect of oral contraceptive use before first term pregnancy on breast cancer risk. We have found no evidence of any adverse effect of oral contraceptive use on the risk of breast cancer in this study. There was, however, little exposure to the pill before first term pregnancy among the participants and virtually no such exposure at a very young age (i.e. below 20 years). Accordingly, the results of this study strengthen the evidence that oral contraceptive use by mature women does not increase breast cancer risk, but add little to the uncertainty about the effects of early use.

Full text

Full text is available as a scanned copy of the original print version. Get a printable copy (PDF file) of the complete article (800K), or click on a page image below to browse page by page. Links to PubMed are also available for Selected References.

Selected References

These references are in PubMed. This may not be the complete list of references from this article.
  • McPherson K, Vessey MP, Neil A, Doll R, Jones L, Roberts M. Early oral contraceptive use and breast cancer: results of another case-control study. Br J Cancer. 1987 Nov;56(5):653–660. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Meirik O, Lund E, Adami HO, Bergström R, Christoffersen T, Bergsjö P. Oral contraceptive use and breast cancer in young women. A joint national case-control study in Sweden and Norway. Lancet. 1986 Sep 20;2(8508):650–654. [PubMed]
  • Paul C, Skegg DC, Spears GF, Kaldor JM. Oral contraceptives and breast cancer: a national study. Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1986 Sep 20;293(6549):723–726. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Pike MC, Henderson BE, Krailo MD, Duke A, Roy S. Breast cancer in young women and use of oral contraceptives: possible modifying effect of formulation and age at use. Lancet. 1983 Oct 22;2(8356):926–930. [PubMed]
  • Schlesselman JJ, Stadel BV, Murray P, Lai SH. Breast cancer risk in relation to type of estrogen contained in oral contraceptives. Contraception. 1987 Dec;36(6):595–613. [PubMed]
  • Schlesselman JJ, Stadel BV, Murray P, Lai S. Breast cancer in relation to early use of oral contraceptives. No evidence of a latent effect. JAMA. 1988 Mar 25;259(12):1828–1833. [PubMed]
  • Stadel BV, Rubin GL, Webster LA, Schlesselman JJ, Wingo PA. Oral contraceptives and breast cancer in young women. Lancet. 1985 Nov 2;2(8462):970–973. [PubMed]
  • Stadel BV, Schlesselman JJ. Oral contraceptive use and the risk of breast cancer in women with a "prior" history of benign breast disease. Am J Epidemiol. 1986 Mar;123(3):373–382. [PubMed]
  • Vessey M, Doll R, Peto R, Johnson B, Wiggins P. A long-term follow-up study of women using different methods of contraception--an interim report. J Biosoc Sci. 1976 Oct;8(4):373–427. [PubMed]
  • Vessey MP, McPherson K, Doll R. Breast cancer and oral contraceptives: findings in Oxford-Family Planning Association contraceptive study. Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1981 Jun 27;282(6282):2093–2094. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Vessey MP, McPherson K, Yeates D, Doll R. Oral contraceptive use and abortion before first term pregnancy in relation to breast cancer risk. Br J Cancer. 1982 Mar;45(3):327–331. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Villard-Mackintosh L, Coleman MP, Vessey MP. The completeness of cancer registration in England: an assessment from the Oxford-FPA contraceptive study. Br J Cancer. 1988 Oct;58(4):507–511. [PMC free article] [PubMed]

Articles from British Journal of Cancer are provided here courtesy of Cancer Research UK