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October 11, 2000

Oral Contraceptives and Breast CancerA Note of Caution for High-Risk Women

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliation: Departments of Medical History and Ethics and Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle.

JAMA. 2000;284(14):1837-1838. doi:10.1001/jama.284.14.1837

Clinicians frequently make recommendations in the absence of data. They do so because they have no choice: clinical questions must be addressed even when appropriate evidence is not available. For some decisions, the uncertainties about risks and benefits are so problematic that physicians and patients await study results with great anticipation—sometimes, even with fear. An example is the question of whether women with a genetic susceptibility to breast cancer should use oral contraceptives (OCs), weighing a possible increase in breast cancer risk against the convenience of this means of birth control and its potential to reduce ovarian cancer risk. The study by Grabrick and coauthors1 in this issue of THE JOURNAL confirms that breast cancer risk is a real concern in this setting.

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