Breast Cancer Research and Treatment

, Volume 155, Issue 1, pp 3–12 | Cite as

Progestin and breast cancer risk: a systematic review

  • Marsha SamsonEmail author
  • Nancy Porter
  • Olubunmi Orekoya
  • James R. Hebert
  • Swann Arp Adams
  • Charles L. Bennett
  • Susan E. Steck


This systematic review summarizes research on the use of progestin and breast cancer risk. Although mainly used for contraception, progestin can help treat menstrual disorders, and benign breast, uterine, and ovarian diseases. Breast cancer is the leading site of new, non-skin, cancers in females in the United States, and possible factors that may modulate breast cancer risk need to be identified. ProQuest (Ann Arbor, MI) and PubMed-Medline (US National Library of Medicine, Bethesda MD, USA) databases were used to search for epidemiologic studies from 2000 to 2015 that examined the association between progestin and breast cancer. Search terms included epidemiologic studies + progesterone or progestin or progestogen or contraceptive or contraceptive agents +breast cancer or breast neoplasms. A total of six studies were included in the review. Five of the six studies reported no association between progestin-only formulations (including norethindrone oral contraceptives, depot medroxyprogesterone acetate, injectable, levonorgestrel system users, implantable and intrauterine devices) and breast cancer risk. Duration of use was examined in a few studies with heterogeneous results. Unlike studies of other oral contraceptives, studies indicate that progestin-only formulations do not increase the risk of breast cancer, although the literature is hampered by small sample sizes. Future research is needed to corroborate these findings, as further understanding of synthetic progesterone may initiate new prescription practices or guidelines for women’s health.


Contraception Risk Pharmacoepidemiology Breast cancer Progestin Progesterone Progestogen 



This publication was made possible in part by Grant Number T32-GM081740 from NIH-NIGMS. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the NIGMS or NIH.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

None of the authors have conflicts of interest to disclose.

Ethical approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.

Ethical standards

Experiments comply with the current laws of the United States.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marsha Samson
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  • Nancy Porter
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Olubunmi Orekoya
    • 1
    • 3
  • James R. Hebert
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Swann Arp Adams
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Charles L. Bennett
    • 4
  • Susan E. Steck
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Epidemiology and BiostatisticsUniversity of South CarolinaColumbiaUSA
  2. 2.Cancer Prevention and Control ProgramUniversity of South CarolinaColumbiaUSA
  3. 3.Arnold School of Public HealthUniversity of South CarolinaColumbiaUSA
  4. 4.College of PharmacyUniversity of South CarolinaColumbiaUSA

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