Interestingly, the Danish study found that all hormonal birth control—not just birth control pills—increased breast cancer risk.
“We haven’t made birth control zero risk and I don’t think we ever will or that that’s a reasonable expectation,” says Prager. “But it is incredibly low risk.”
Putting the breast cancer stats in perspective
Hearing that birth control can increase your risk of cancer is scary. But the risk demonstrated by this study is actually pretty small, says Prager. To be exact: The researchers found 13 additional breast cancer diagnoses out of every 100,000 women using hormonal birth control compared to those who didn’t use hormonal birth control. This increased risk translates into only one additional case for every 7,690 women using contraceptives for one year.
“Just to put it in another perspective: Let’s say every single woman who used hormonal birth control stopped using birth control at all. That would mean many more millions of pregnancies that are potentially unplanned or unwanted,” says Prager. “Pregnancy comes with a much more significant risk than does contraception.”
In Denmark, where this research was done, the maternal mortality rate was 4.2 per 100,000 live births in 2015, according to data from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. In other words, for every 100,000 babies born, four moms died. (It’s worth noting: The maternal mortality rate in the U.S. in 2015 was 26.4 per 100,000 live births, the highest in the developed world.)
You may be thinking: Four is a smaller number than 13, so what’s the point?