Number And Timing Of Pregnancies Influence Breast Cancer Risk

pregnant woman

There’s new research that suggests the more times a woman gets pregnant, the less risk she has of getting breast cancer. The study said that both the number of pregnancies a woman has and the timing of those pregnancies can impact her chances of developing breast cancer later in her life.

The risk of breast cancer declined for women that carry the BRCA1 gene and had more than just one pregnancy. However, women with BRCA2 mutations did not have a decrease in risk from multiple pregnancies unless they were pregnant four or more times. The study was conducted with two teams from Columbia University and the Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale in Paris. The results have been published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute Cancer Spectrum.

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According to Science Daily, Dr. Mary Beth Terry, PhD, Professor of Epidemiology and Environmental Health Sciences at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University and the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center explains that timing is key when it comes to decreasing a woman’s risk of breast cancer through multiple pregnancies.

Dr. Terry said, “What we have learned is that timing really matters for many risk factors and the dual effect of pregnancy we see in non-mutation carriers with a long term protection but short term increase following a pregnancy may not extend to all women with BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations as the short-term increase and long-term protection may relate much more to the timing of when these pregnancies occur."

Also, hormones play a huge part. The shift in hormones during the first pregnancy might impact a woman’s risk of breast cancer, depending on when the pregnancy occurred. The team of researchers followed about 5,700 women with BRCA1 and 3,500 women with BRCA2 strains.

Some of the symptoms of breast cancer include a lump in the breast or bloody discharge from the nipple. Women often notice a change in the shape and texture of their breast, too. Treatment varies and include but are not limited to radiation therapy, mammaplasty, lumpectomy or mastectomy.

In the United States alone, about one in eight women will develop invasive breast cancer in the course of her lifetime. It’s been estimated that there will be about 268,000 reported cases of breast cancer this year.

Follow up studies are currently being conducted both in the U.S. and in Europe, and also at the Breast Cancer Family Registry.

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