OC Use May Favorably Influence Breast Cancer Survival

April 1, 1996

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 pill.

Although most studies of the relationship between oral contraceptives(OCs) and breast cancer have focused on a possible causative rolefor OCs, new data suggest that breast cancer patients with a historyof OC use may actually fare better than women who have never takenthe pill.

The long-term survival advantage seen in OC users with breastcancer was independent of other, established prognostic factors,according to an analysis of 471 patients with breast cancer carriedout at University Hospital Charlottenberg, Berlin, as part ofthe WHO Collaborative Study of Neoplasia and Steroid Contraceptives.

"I want to stress that we did not find any difference inthe distribution of prognostic factors that could explain thedifference in overall survival," Ines Schonborn, MD, saidat the Eighth Annual European Cancer Conference (ECCO-8).

Although OC use correlated with increased histologic grade andyounger age at the time of diagnosis, there were no links uncoveredbetween OC use and tumor type, size, nodal status, or estrogen-receptorstatus.

Dr. Schonborn noted that the survival edge was particularly pronouncedin women who had used OCs for more than 4 years, and most significantin patients who might have been expected to have a worse outcome,such as those with positive lymph nodes, large tumors, and hormonereceptor-negative tumors.

"There may be a favorable effect of oral contraceptives ontumor biology or metastasis during the preclinical course of thedisease," she proposed.