Cancer and Steroid Hormone (CASH) study

Genetic research

Family planning, and the modern era of birth control that was ushered in by the first approval of birth control pills in 19601, has been named one of the Ten Great Public Health Achievements in the 20th Century by the CDC. But, a number of studies suggested possible links between birth control pills and cancer or heart disease that required further research.2

In the 1980s, the CDC, and the National Cancer Institute and National Institute of Child Health and Human Development at NIH, supported the Cancer and Steroid Hormone (CASH) Study. Its purpose was to study the relationship between oral contraceptives and breast, endometrial (or uterine), and ovarian cancers in U.S. women. The study enrolled women ages 20 to 54 with newly diagnosed breast, endometrial, or ovarian cancer. The investigators found that use of birth control pills did not increase the risk for breast cancer. They also found that women who had used oral contraceptives had a lower risk of ovarian cancer, and the risk went down the longer a woman used the pill. The effect lasted more than 10 years after a woman stopped taking the pill. Additionally, the risk of endometrial cancer in women who had used combination oral contraceptives with estrogen and progestin was only about half the risk compared with women who had never taken the pill.3

Other research studies since the CASH study continue to find that birth control pills reduce a woman’s risk of ovarian and endometrial cancer.4

Sources

  1. CDC, Achievements in Public Health, 1900-1999: Family Planning
  2. NIH, Oral Contraceptives and Cancer Risk
  3. CDC, Oral Contraceptives and Cancer Risk
  4. NIH, Oral Contraceptives and Cancer Risk