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    Pregnancy & Breast Cancer


    What do your family planning choices have to do with your risk of breast cancer?

    Women who have children before thirty and who have multiple pregnancies have a lower risk than those of us who wait until after thirty, or have no children. One report suggests that women who have their first child after thirty also face more aggressive tumors.

    Modern women have busy lives. More years of education, careers, more effective methods of contraception and later marriages all result in our having children at a much later age than our parents and grandparents.

    Women who have children before they turn 30 have a lower incidence of breast cancer. Women who have more than one child have an even better chance of avoiding the disease. Some research has found the benefits of early childbearing so strong that it counteracts the increased risk of early menarche. That is, unless there is a family history of breast cancer. Genetic factors eliminate the benefits of early childbearing.

    The cause of this protection is the change or " maturing" that occurs in breast tissue during pregnancy. These changes are permanent and the cellular changes that result in breast cancer are less likely to occur. Early pregnancy gives a life long protection that reduces the risk of breast cancer.

    But don't rush out immediately to start a family.

    An issue to consider is that pregnancy can cause a three to five year increase in the risk of developing breast cancer. The increase in estrogen during pregnancy is associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. One study reported that women who have multiple births or babies over eight pounds, are more at risk than those that carry lighter weight babies.

    Another concern is that premature birth or abortion may increase the risk. The argument is that the breasts do not fully "mature". The cellular changes that do take place and the increased estrogen the body produces add up to a higher incidence of breast cancer. Most studies do not support this conclusion.

    What does having breast cancer and all the related treatments mean if you are pregnant or planning on starting a family after you've been diagnosed? The good news here is that the recent research finds no effects on children born to breast cancer survivors.

    Most doctors recommend waiting for a two to three year period before considering pregnancy. The additional estrogen that the body produces is feared to be dangerous to post treatment breast tissue. Some studies have questioned whether this is necessary. With the disagreement among researchers, the best idea is to take your doctors advice.

    If you are worried about the biological clock ticking away, recent studies reporting that in-vitro fertilization is not linked to breast cancer risk should make the wait a little easier. Some institutions are working with cancer survivors to help reverse fertility problems due to cancer treatments.

    January 24, 2000

    Last updated July 9, 2009


    also see -> Pregnancy & Breast Cancer - Health Issues & Risk Factors

    Elsewhere on the Web:

    Pregnancy & Breast Cancer Risk
    Pregnancy Hormone May Prevent Breast Cancer




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