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Q: I have been on birth control pills for over 20 years. Is that bad for me?

If birth control pills are working well for you, you can keep taking them. Most people can take birth control pills for as long as they need to prevent pregnancy, with a few exceptions. If you are a smoker over age 35, or if you have certain health conditions, like a blood clotting disorder or hypertension, you should not take a birth control pill that contains the hormone estrogen.

Some women are concerned about the connection between birth control and cancer. Studies have found that people who take hormonal birth control pills have a slightly higher risk of breast cancer, as well as a slightly higher risk of cervical cancer. In both cases, the risk increased the longer the person spent on oral contraceptives, and decreased over time when they stopped. But hormonal birth control also seems to offer protection against some cancers. Women who took birth control pills have a lower risk of endometrial cancer, ovarian cancer, and colorectal cancer.

Hormonal birth control affects women in different ways. If you have questions or concerns, talk to your doctor. They can discuss the potential risks and benefits, and share different opinions for long term birth control, like an IUD, subdermal implant, or a contraceptive injection.