Long Term Hormonal Contraceptive Use Linked to Rare Brain Cancer

Use of a hormonal contraceptive for at least 5 years linked to potential increase in development of glioma of the brain.

Use of a hormonal contraceptive for at least 5 years linked to potential increase in development of glioma of the brain.

The use of a hormonal contraceptive for at least 5 years in women aged 15 to 49 was found to increase the chance of developing a rare form of brain cancer, a recent study indicates.

Published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, the study examined the use of oral contraceptives containing female sex hormones, which are used by women worldwide. Despite the fact that little is known about the causes of glioma and other brain tumors, prior studies have indicated that female sex hormones may increase the risk of developing some types of cancer.

Additionally, there is also evidence that the use of contraceptives may lower this risk in certain age groups.

"This prompted us to evaluate whether using hormonal contraceptives might influence the risk of gliomas in women of the age range who use them," study lead David Gaist, MD, said in a press release.

For the current study, the researchers examined health registry data from Denmark to identify all women between 15 and 49 years of age who had a first-time diagnosis of glioma between 2000 and 2009. The data revealed 317 cases, who were subsequently compared with 8 age-matched women who didn't have gliomas.

The researchers noted that in a population of reproductive aged women, including those using hormonal contraceptives, it would be anticipated to see 5 in 100,000 people develop a glioma annually, according to Danish Cancer Registry data.

"While we found a statistically significant association between hormonal contraceptive use and glioma risk, a risk-benefit evaluation would still favor the use of hormonal contraceptives in eligible users," Dr Gaist said.

He added the importance of continuing to evaluate long-term contraceptive use to help women choose the best contraception for their needs.

"Despite that, we feel our study is an important contribution and we hope that our findings will spark further research on the relationship between female hormonal agents and glioma risk," he concluded.