In a study published in the British Medical Journal, Karin B. Michels, ScD, PhD, senior study author and associate professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Biology at BWH, and colleagues report that they have found no link between use of oral contraceptives and overall mortality. They did discover that longer duration of use was associated with certain causes of death, including premature death due to breast cancer. Deaths due to ovarian cancer were less common among women who used oral contraceptives.
Using data from the Nurses’ Health Study, researchers evaluated data from 121,701 research participants who self-reported data about oral contraception use twice yearly between 1976 and 2012. Of the study population, 48 percent had ever used oral contraceptives.
“This is an important issue for the millions of women who use these medications,” said Michels. “It is important to note that our data pertain to earlier oral contraceptives, which were formulated with higher hormone doses rather than the now more commonly used third and fourth generation formulations with lower estrogen doses.”
Michels and colleagues note that further research is needed on these newer formulations of oral contraceptives, particularly the impact of long-term use.