The Canadian Cancer Society believes it’s important to understand the risks, benefits and side effects of birth control pills and other hormonal contraceptives so women can make an informed decision about their own health.
The major benefits of taking hormonal contraceptives:
- preventing unwanted pregnancy
- reducing the symptoms of menstruation (cramps and bleeding)
- reducing the risk of endometrial and ovarian cancers
- managing the side effects of excessive male hormone production (for example, acne and hair growth)
Women who take the pill have a slightly higher risk for breast, cervical and liver cancers and a higher risk for heart disease and stroke (mostly in women who smoke cigarettes).
Using oral contraceptives does not appear to have any effect on the risk of colorectal cancer.
Other types of hormonal contraceptives – such as the patch, vaginal ring, skin implant and injection – are newer, so there’s not enough research yet to assess cancer risk.
Women who are considering hormonal contraceptives should talk to their doctor about the risks and benefits, their personal and family history and other medical concerns.