Oral contraceptive formulation and risk of breast cancer

Polly A. Marchbanks, Kathryn M. Curtis, Michele G. Mandel, Hoyt G. Wilson, Gary Jeng, Suzanne G. Folger, Jill A. McDonald, Janet R. Daling, Leslie Bernstein, Kathleen E. Malone, Phyllis A. Wingo, Michael S. Simon, Sandra A. Norman, Brian L. Strom, Giske Ursin, Linda K. Weiss, Ronald T. Burkman, Robert Spirtas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


Background: While evidence on the association between oral contraceptive (OC) use and breast cancer generally suggests little or no increased risk, the question of whether breast cancer risk varies by OC formulation remains controversial. Few studies have examined this issue because large samples and extensive OC histories are required. Study Design: We used data from a multicenter, population-based, case-control investigation. Women aged 35-64 years were interviewed. To explore the association between OC formulation and breast cancer risk, we used conditional logistic regression to derive adjusted odds ratios, and we used likelihood ratio tests for heterogeneity to assess whether breast cancer risk varied by OC formulation. Key OC exposure variables were ever use, current or former use, duration of use and time since last use. To strengthen inferences about specific formulations, we restricted most analyses to the 2282 women with breast cancer and the 2424 women without breast cancer who reported no OC use or exclusive use of one OC. Results: Thirty-eight formulations were reported by the 2674 women who used one OC; most OC formulations were used by only a few women. We conducted multivariable analyses on the 10 formulations that were each used by at least 50 women and conducted supplemental analyses on selected formulations of interest based on recent research. Breast cancer risk did not vary significantly by OC formulation, and no formulation was associated with a significantly increased breast cancer risk. Conclusions: These results add to the small body of literature on the relationship between OC formulation and breast cancer. Our data are reassuring in that, among women 35-64 years of age, we found no evidence that specific OC formulations increase breast cancer risk.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)342-350
Number of pages9
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2012
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


  • Breast cancer
  • Case-control studies
  • Epidemiology
  • Hormones
  • Oral contraceptives


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