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The pill reduces the risk of breast cancer for young women with a family history of the disease, Australian research suggests.
University of Melbourne researchers studied almost 2,000 women under the age of 40, including 1,156 breast cancer patients in Australia, Canada and the United States.
They found those with an inherited mutation in the BRCA1 gene - a known risk factor for early onset breast cancer - were about four times less likely to develop the disease if they were taking oral contraceptives.
The findings go against the researchers' original hypothesis that the pill would increase breast cancer in high-risk groups.