Although most studies of the relationship between oral contraceptives
(OCs) and breast cancer have focused on a possible causative role
for OCs, new data suggest that breast cancer patients with a history
of OC use may actually fare better than women who have never taken
The long-term survival advantage seen in OC users with breast
cancer was independent of other, established prognostic factors,
according to an analysis of 471 patients with breast cancer carried
out at University Hospital Charlottenberg, Berlin, as part of
the WHO Collaborative Study of Neoplasia and Steroid Contraceptives.
"I want to stress that we did not find any difference in
the distribution of prognostic factors that could explain the
difference in overall survival," Ines Schonborn, MD, said
at the Eighth Annual European Cancer Conference (ECCO-8).
Although OC use correlated with increased histologic grade and
younger age at the time of diagnosis, there were no links uncovered
between OC use and tumor type, size, nodal status, or estrogen-receptor
Dr. Schonborn noted that the survival edge was particularly pronounced
in women who had used OCs for more than 4 years, and most significant
in patients who might have been expected to have a worse outcome,
such as those with positive lymph nodes, large tumors, and hormone
"There may be a favorable effect of oral contraceptives on
tumor biology or metastasis during the preclinical course of the
disease," she proposed.