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According to a recent article published in the journal Cancer, childbearing in women who had previously been diagnosed with breast cancer does not increase mortality.

Breast cancer is a common malignancy among women. One-quarter of breast cancer cases occur in women prior to menopause, at an age in which bearing children may be an important consideration. However, concern has arisen regarding the effects of pregnancy in women who have already been diagnosed with breast cancer. This concern stems from the fact that breast cancer can be stimulated to grow by various endocrine signals, particularly the female hormones estrogen and/or progesterone. During pregnancy, complex endocrine processes are evoked within a woman’s body, with estrogen and/or progesterone levels soaring throughout the course of the term. This has left physicians and patients worried about the effects of pregnancy in raising the risk of mortality and/or a cancer recurrence in women who have already been diagnosed and treated for breast cancer.

Researchers from several institutions evaluated data involving over 3,000 women under the age of 45 years who had been diagnosed with breast cancer, the majority of whom had localized breast cancer. Patients had been diagnosed with breast cancer between 1980 and 1994 in several different states. Approximately 440 of these women gave birth to a live infant at least 10 months following the diagnosis of breast cancer. Women who had given birth following diagnosis were compared to women who had not given birth following their diagnosis and had similar age at time of diagnosis, race and ethnicity, diagnosis year and specific extent and type of breast cancer diagnosis. Women who gave birth following their breast cancer diagnosis actually had a decreased risk of mortality, compared to those who did not have subsequent births. Women who were pregnant at the time of their diagnosis had similar mortality to those who did not have subsequent births following diagnosis.

The researchers concluded that childbearing at least 10 months following a diagnosis of breast cancer does not appear to increase the risk of mortality and may, in fact decrease the risk of mortality. However, the researchers caution that further confirmation is necessary as these statistics may be skewed, as healthier women may be more likely to become pregnant and achieve live births. Young women who have been diagnosed with cancer who are considering to enlarge their families should speak with their physician about the possible risks and benefits of their decision.

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Reference: Mueller B, Simon M, Deapen D, et al. Childbearing and survival after breast carcinoma in young women.

Cancer. 2003. Published online. August 2003. Accessed August 13, 2003. Available at: .

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