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JOURNAL OF REPRODUCTIVE MEDICINE. 1996 May; 41(5 Suppl):419-25.This article reviews recent epidemiological data assessing the risk of breast, endometrial, ovarian, and cervical cancer in women using the injectable contraceptive depot medroxyprogesterone acetate (DMPA). A review is also provided of epidemiological and biostatistical concepts which relate to the literature on the relationship between the use of hormonal contraception and cancer. Breast cancer is a common and lethal disease in the US, and evidence suggests that gonadal steroids play a role in the development of breast cancer. Two major case control studies (one in New Zealand and the other under the auspices of the World Health Organization [WHO]) as well as a pooled analysis of these studies found no increased overall breast cancer risk in DMPA users. A currently unexplained pattern of increased risk in recent users mimics that seen with oral contraceptive (OC) use and term pregnancy. A WHO hospital-based study of the relationship between endometrial cancer and DMPA use found a protective effect of DMPA which appeared to be longterm and as great as that associated with OCs. Whereas it is plausible that DMPA, which suppresses ovulation, would lower the risk of ovarian cancer in users, a WHO case-control and hospital-based study failed to uncover such a protective effect. Studies of the routine use of DMPA in nulliparous women (who have higher risk of ovarian cancer) will shed more light on any effect DMPA may have on ovarian cancer. The unique epidemiology of cervical cancer (including number of sexual partners, use of barrier contraception, and frequent screening) makes it difficult to assess any association with contraceptive use. However, a large population-based, case-control study in Costa Rica; a WHO hospital-based, case-control study in Thailand, Mexico, and Kenya; and a study in New Zealand indicate that the risk of cervical neoplasia does not appear to be affected by DMPA use. While some issues regarding DMPA and the risk of reproductive tract carcinoma remain to be resolved, clinicians can be reassured that, for appropriately selected clients, the substantial benefits of DMPA outweigh any risks.