Several factors can combine to increase your risks of developing breast cancer, so it’s difficult to state a specific cause of breast cancer from diagnosis.
Certain factors that can increase your chances of getting breast cancer includes:
- Genetic mutation or family history of cancer
- Excessive intake of alcohol
- Tobacco smoking
However, a new study suggests that giving birth could also increase your risks of developing cancer. According to the study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, a link was established between a woman’s breast cancer risk and whether or not she had given birth.
The researchers concluded that women who had given birth in those younger than 55 had a slight higher risk of developing breast cancer.
The recent study encompassed data for 889,944 women younger than 55, which came from 15 previous international studies conducted as part of the Premenopausal Breast Cancer Collaborative Group. Originally, none of the women included in the study had a diagnosis of breast cancer. However, when observing at their long-term data, the scientists discovered that 18,826 of them (2 percent) developed breast cancer during the course of the study.
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Also, they discovered that women who had given birth had a higher risk for developing breast cancer when compared to women who had never given birth. That higher risk increased about five years after giving birth before beginning to decline, and by 24 years out, the risk for breast cancer was actually lower among those who had given birth compared to those who had not.
The research team used a measure called a “hazard ratio” to calculate the risk for breast cancer in one group compared to the other, which is not a measure of the total risk. Generally, the risk for breast cancer in both groups is still low, as was the increase in risk among women who had kids: Women who had given birth had an overall 2.2 percent chance of being diagnosed with breast cancer by age 50 compared to a 1.9 percent chance in those who didn’t give birth. So we’re talking about a difference of 0.3 percent.
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Furthermore, the risks varied based on the type of cancer a participant had. The rate of ER-positive tumors (tumors that have estrogen receptors and can use hormone to grow), which accounted for 76 percent of all cancers in the study, was similar to the overall results of the study. On the other hand, although ER-negative cancer cases also increased in the first few years after birth before slightly declining.
Though the study isn’t really suggesting that giving birth to children increases the risks of cancer.
Study co-author Hazel B. Nichols, Ph.D., assistant professor of epidemiology at UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health says;
“This research is significant because it shows that the risk factors of developing breast cancer for young women can be different from risk factors for older women.”
It is also remarkable that the study incorporated data for such a huge group of participants.
However, Nichols said it shouldn’t be a cause for alarm, adding that even with the increase breast cancer risk for women in this age group is still generally low overall.
Also, it is only an observational study, meaning that cause and effects wasn’t established. The study wasn’t intended to analyze the specific factors that might be behind this increased risk.
Experts have advised women to watch out for those known risk factors of developing breast cancer instead of worrying about the results from this study.
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