Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Birth Control Health Center

Font Size

Birth Control Pills May Lower Health Risks

Lower Risk of Cancer, Heart Disease Reported in 2 New Studies
WebMD Health News

Oct. 20, 2004 -- Birth control pills may lower women's risk of certain cancers and heart disease, according to two new studies from Wayne State University.

The studies, which were presented in Philadelphia at the annual meeting of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, used data from the Women's Health Initiative study.

More than 160,000 women participated in the Women's Health Initiative, including about 67,000 who had used birth control pills in the past.

The data were analyzed by researchers including Rahi Victory of the obstetrics-gynecology department of Wayne State University's medical school.

In light of recent concerns about hormone replacement therapy, the scientists wanted to see what, if any, effect birth control pills had on cancer and heart disease risks.

Birth control pills are formulated differently from hormone replacement therapy and were not addressed in the Women's Health Initiative.

Birth Control Pills and Heart Disease

With regard to heart disease, the researchers found "highly significant relationships" between birth control pills and reduced risk of a wide range of problems including cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke. The risk reductions were generally seen in women who had taken birth control pills for more than one year.

However, the reduced risk for angina (chest pain), transient ischemic attack (a mini-stroke), and certain blood vessel diseases was only seen in women who had used birth control pills for more than four years.

The data showed, however, that increasing age, elevated body mass index, and smoking greatly increased the risks of cardiovascular events, even in birth control users.

Birth Control Pills and Cancer

Though the study initially showed significant relationships between birth control pills and many types of cancer, after controlling for risk factors that contribute to these cancers, "there was no effect on risk of breast cancer, bladder cancer, or colon cancer," they say.

However, the data did show that women who had used birth control pills for a longer period of time did have reduced risks for endometrial cancer (cancer of the lining of the uterus) and ovarian cancer.

As with heart disease, older women and those with diabetes consistently had increased risks for any cancer, endometrial cancer, and ovarian cancer.

Birth Control Pills Have Many Varieties

Many different birth control pills have hit the market since the first one debuted in 1960.

The formulations used today are different from those in the past, which may be one reason why studies over the years have yielded contradictory findings, for better or worse, on the health impact of birth control pills.

Expect further research on the topic.

Today on WebMD

Here's what to expect.
man opening condom wrapper
Do you know the right way to use them?
birth control pills
Here's what to do next.
doctor and patient
His and her options.
Concerned teenage girl
hospital gown
Birth Control Pills Weight Gain
Ortho Evra Birth Control Patch
contraceptive pills
Young couple looking at each other, serious
woman reading pregnancy test result