Cancer Research UK welcomes new contraceptive pill

In collaboration with the Press Association

Cancer Research UK has welcomed the announcement of a new contraceptive pill which may cut the risk of breast cancer, but has played down its significance.

"Although taking the pill is associated with a small increased risk of breast cancer the absolute number of cases remains small because breast cancer is uncommon in young women," said medical director of Cancer Research UK, professor John Toy.

"However, any decrease in risk which clinical trials have shown could be achieved without increasing other serious risks would obviously be welcome," he added.

The pill, currently undergoing clinical testing and scheduled for availability within the next five years, works by halting periods altogether.

The new medication could also aid a range of conditions such as endometriosis, and cut the risks of thrombosis among older women who smoke or are overweight, claimed scientists.

"On theoretical grounds, there is no reason to suspect that this should increase the risk of breast cancer," said professor David Baird of the University of Edinburgh. "In fact, it might even decrease it."

"If you reduce the cyclical exposure of the ovary to the ovarian hormones oestrogen and progesterone, you should reduce the risk of breast cancer."

Professor Baird added that more widespread clinical testing was needed before the benefits of the drug could be known.