Oral contraceptives and cancers of the breast and of the female genital tract. Interim results from a case-control study

C. la Vecchia, A. Decarli, M. Fasoli, S. Franceschi, A. Gentile, E. Negri, F. Parazzini, G. Tognoni

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We analysed data from a case-control investigation conducted in Milan, Northern Italy, to evaluate the relationship between the use of combination oral contraceptives and the risk of cancers of the breast, ovary, endometrium and cervix uteri. For the present analysis, 776 cases of histologically confirmed breast cancer, 406 of epithelial ovarian cancer and 170 of endometrial cancer aged under 60 were compared with a group of 1,282 subjects below age 60 admitted for a spectrum of acute conditions apparently unrelated to oral contraceptive use or to any of the known or potential risk factors for the diseases under study. Likewise, 225 cases of invasive cervical cancer were compared with 225 age-matched inpatient controls, and 202 cases of cervical intra-epithelial neoplasia with 202 outpatient controls identified in the same screening clinics. The age-adjusted relative risk estimates for ever vs. never use of combination oral contraceptives were 1.04 (95% confidence interval (CI) 0.73-1.37) for breast cancer, 0.68 (95% CI = 0.48-0.97) for epithelial ovarian cancer, 0.50 (95% CI = 0.23-1.12) for endometrial cancer, 1.49 (95% CI = 0.88-2.55) for cervical cancer and 0.77 (95% CI = 0.50-1.18) for cervical intra-epithelial neoplasia. The risk of ovarian cancer decreased and that of invasive cervical cancer increased with longer duration of use. Neither duration of oral contraceptive use nor time since first or last use significantly altered a user's risk of other neoplasms considered. Likewise, analysis of sub-groups of age, parity or other potentially important covariates did not show any important interaction, and allowance for them by means of logistic regression did not materially modify any of the results. These data confirm that combination oral contraceptives confer some protection against ovarian and endometrial cancers but may increase the risk of invasive cervical cancer if used for several years, and indicate that the past or current pattern of oral contraceptive use in Italy is unlikely materially to affect the risk of breast cancer.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)311-317
Number of pages7
JournalBritish Journal of Cancer
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1986

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research
  • Oncology


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