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To see our content at its best we recommend upgrading if you wish to continue using IE or using another browser such as Firefox, Safari or Google Chrome. A million women who take Britain's most popular contraceptive pills are being warned they risk developing potentially life-threatening blood clots. This comes after a review by the European Medicines Agency which found that the packaging of the pills should be updated to ensure that women are made aware of the risks of blood clots. Women who take the most widely prescribed type of contraceptive pill may be less likely to suffer depression. The researchers who carried out the study say that doctors should use caution in prescribing progestogen-only pills because of these potential side effects.In the new study, in the Journal of Affective Disorders, psychiatrists from universities in Australia and Norway, including Melbourne and Bergen, looked at Pill use and the prevalence of mood disorder in women aged 20 to 50. The views expressed in the contents above are those of our users and do not necessarily reflect the views of MailOnline. Providing a co-ordinated approach and a single source of quality assured health information for the public in Scotland. The combined pill contains oestrogen and, as it is known oestrogen can stimulate breast cancer cells to grow, the potential for extra oestrogen to increase the risk of breast cancer has been recognised for some time. What we can say is this was a robust study that included more than 1,000 US women aged 20 to 49 who had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and an age-matched control group. Overall use of any combined pill in the past year was associated with a 50% increased risk of developing breast cancer, compared with never using the combined pill or using it more than one year ago. The study was carried out by researchers from the Group Health Research Institute, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, and the University of Washington, all in the US.
It was funded by grants from the US National Cancer Institute and the US National Institutes for Health. In general the media reports are accurate, but the high-strength pills associated with the more than doubled risk are no longer prescribed in the UK.
The Times deserves praise for making an effort to put the increased risk into a meaningful context, equating it to the same risk associated with "drinking a large glass of wine a day". This was a case-control study including more than 1,000 US women aged 20 to 49 who had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and a group of age-matched women without breast cancer as a control. Use of the combined oral contraceptive pill in the year before cancer diagnosis was compared between the groups using pharmacy records. Combined oral contraceptive pills, commonly called the pill, contain the hormone oestrogen.
The study included women aged 20 to 49 enrolled on a healthcare delivery system (Group Health Cooperative, GHC) serving the Seattle Puget Sound area in the US state of Washington between 1989 and 2009. New cases of breast cancer were identified using the local cancer registry, the Cancer Surveillance System (CSS). They classified the prescriptions by formulation, the strength of synthetic oestrogen and the type of progestogen it contained. They classified the number of pills used in the previous year as less than 190 or 190 and above to estimate exposure for more or less than half of the previous year, and to assess a potential dose-response effect.
After excluding women taking progestogen-only pills, they had a sample of 1,102 cases and 21,952 controls. As may be expected, there was a slightly stronger association between combined pill use and oestrogen receptor-positive breast cancers (these are known as ER+ cancers, where oestrogen stimulates growth) than for oestrogen receptor-negative cancers. There was a significant trend for the risk of breast cancer in general, and ER+ breast cancers specifically, to increase with the increasing number of pills dispensed over the past year.
Triphasic preparations (where three different types of tablets are used during different phases of the menstrual cycle) containing a particular type and strength of progestogen (0.75 mg of norethindrone), or preparations containing another progestogen (ethynodiol diacetate), were associated with more than doubled risk. As may be expected, the researchers found women with and without breast cancer differed on a number of other potential risks factors identified in their medical records.

However, none of these factors were found to be confounding the relationship between combined pill use and breast cancer.
The researchers say their results "suggest that recent use of contemporary oral contraceptives is associated with an increased breast cancer risk, which may vary by formulation. The combined oral contraceptive pill contains oestrogen and it is known oestrogen can stimulate breast cancer cells to grow. In this case-control study, researchers found overall combined oral contraceptive use in the previous year was associated with a 50% increased relative risk of developing breast cancer compared with never-use or use more than one year ago. As may be expected, there was also a slightly stronger association between combined pill use and oestrogen receptor-positive breast cancers (cancers where oestrogen stimulates growth). Based on several large studies, Cancer Research UK currently advises there seems to be a small increase in risk of breast cancer while women are taking the combined pill.
This case-control study seemed to support the idea combined pill use only increases risk while you are taking the extra oestrogen, as all risk increases with recent use were compared with women who had never used the pill or had used it more than one year ago.
The charity also highlights that balanced against this, the pill reduces the risk of some other cancers, including ovarian and womb cancers. The results of this particular case-control study are likely to be reliable and may be applicable to wider populations of combined pill users.
A more important point of note relates to the higher risk this study found with certain combined pill formulations, as these may differ from those used in other countries.
Currently, in the UK combined pills are only prescribed containing standard moderate-strength (30 to 35 micrograms) or low-strength (20 micrograms) oestrogen.
Similarly, the specific progestogen types associated with a particularly high risk of breast cancer are not contained in current UK preparations.
This study adds to the large existing body of research on the association between taking the pill and breast cancer. Researchers found that even women who used the pill after becoming pregnant were no more likely to have babies with serious defects than mothers who had never used it. Oral contraceptives taken just before or during pregnancy do not increase the risk of birth defects, according to a large-scale study published Wednesday. Examining records for nearly 900,000 live births in Denmark, researchers found that even women who used the pill after becoming pregnant were no more likely to have babies with serious defects than mothers who had never used it. Several of these studies, some decades old, had found a link between use of the hormone-based contraceptives and defects, even if most did not. Drawing from Danish national health records from 1997 to 2011, Charlton and colleagues divided the women into four groups. For all categories, the ratio of normal birth to those with major defects was exactly the same — 25 per 1,000 live births. This ratio remained consistent across all groups even with the inclusion of pregnancies that ended in stillbirths or induced abortions.
An acne pill banned in parts of Europe has been linked to the deaths of seven British women.Dianette is still prescribed to thousands of women in the UK for severe skin conditions. Charity shop worker Helen Schofield, 33, died of a blood clot three weeks after starting to take Dianette in 2008.
An MHRA spokesman said: a€?Dianette is an effective medicine for treating the distressing conditions of severe acne and excessive hair. New research shows that those taking the combined Pill a€“ which contains the hormones oestrogen and progestogen (of which progesterone is the most commonly known form) a€“ were two-thirds less likely to develop a mood disorder, but those using progestogen-only contraceptive pills were three times more likely to have a mental illness than women who were not on any medication. Progestogen is known to act on the brain chemical glutamate, and research has shown that higher than usual levels of the chemical are found in the brains of patients with bipolar disorder and major depression. The baseline risk of women of a fertile age developing breast cancer is small, so a 50% increase in this risk doesn't amount to a "high" risk.

The researchers checked if the women used combined oral contraceptive pills in the year before their cancer diagnosis.
If you have any questions or concerns, it is best to discuss the possible options with your GP. Similarly, some of the other preparations associated with higher risk may not be relevant to the UK. The researchers say the relationship between oral contraceptive use and breast cancer risk has been extensively studied.
It is known oestrogen can stimulate some breast cancer cells to grow and it is possible taking synthetic oestrogen could increase risk. This study aimed to focus on newer combined oral contraceptive formulations used between 1989 and 2009 by women enrolled on a large US health plan.
For each case of breast cancer, the researchers randomly sampled up to 20 controls matched for age and time of enrolment into the healthcare system.
The researchers focused on prescriptions filled by cases and controls in the 12 months before the breast cancer diagnosis. The researchers also found varied risk with the different formulations containing different oestrogen strength and progestogen type. As Cancer Research UK points out, fewer breast cancers develop among younger women compared with older women. You can influence some of these risk factors, such as being overweight or obese, drinking alcohol and smoking, by taking action to lose weight, stopping smoking and watching how much you drink.
But the findings need to be confirmed in other studies, particularly those more relevant to the UK population. The coroner said there was a a€?pronounced linka€™ between the drug and her death.Doctors in the UK are advised against prescribing the drug asA  a contraceptive because of research that linked it to a seven-fold increase in the risk of developing blood clots.
Also, this risk needs to be measured against the potential benefits of the pill protecting against other types of cancer, such as ovarian cancer. So a small increase in risk related to taking the pill during this time would lead to quite a small number of extra cases of breast cancer. We want our readers to be responsible while commenting and to consider how their views could be received by others. The latest data from the UKa€™s medicines regulator reveals that during the past three years, seven women in the UK have died while taking the drug, and there have been 83 reports of suspected side effects such as depression and hair loss.Dianette, which is prescribed only to women because of the hormones it contains, is known to increase the risk of blood clots. Please be polite and do not use swear words or crude or sexual language or defamatory words. However, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has insisted it has a€?no new concernsa€™ and that women should continue taking it.Six of the deaths were attributed to blood clots or other vein blockages and one was as a result of a fall.
FMT also holds the right to remove comments that violate the letter or spirit of the general commenting rules.The views expressed in the contents are those of our users and do not necessarily reflect the views of FMT.
None of the deaths or side effects has been directly attributed to the drug, but all have been reported to the MHRA throughA  its a€?yellow carda€™ scheme, which allows doctors and patients to record suspected drug reactions.Last month, regulators in France, where the pill is also prescribed as a contraceptive, announced they were suspending the use of Dianette after data linked it to the deaths. These are very safe, highly effective medicines for preventing unintended pregnancy and the benefits associated with their use far outweigh the risk of blood clots in veins or arteries. The European Medicines Agency, which regulates medicines across Europe, has also launched a review of its safety.An inquest heard that Charlotte Porter, 17, from Allington, near Maidstone, Kent, died in March 2010 of a deep-vein thrombosis after taking Dianette for acne.

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