Breast Cancer Risk May Increase Slightly Post Childbirth, Study finds

According to a recently published study, new mothers face slightly higher risk of breast cancer than women, who have never given birth. The risk could peak after nearly five years of childbirth, before declining gradually. Researchers mentioned that the degree of risk goes up with the mother’s age at the time she became mother.

The results, based on collective data obtained from over 14 studies, including more than 880,000 women, have hit hard to the new mothers, who are already facing stress taking care of their little ones. But, researchers said that even with the increase, the chances of young women suffering breast cancer remains very low before menopause.

In an interview, Hazel B. Nichols, the author of the study and an epidemiologist at the University Of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, said that they don’t want women to get frightened.

To ensure women don’t get panic, Dr. Nichols showed that the risk is small. She added that as per their findings, 2.2 percent new mothers in the age group 41-50 years, who gave birth in the last three to seven years, developed breast cancer, whereas the figure was 1.9 percent in those, who hadn’t had babies. She noted that the rise in breast cancer risk lasted for nearly two decades, and the women who had babies before 25 showed no rise in risk.

Dr. Katrina Armstrong, a cancer expert and physician in chief at the Massachusetts General Hospital wrote in an editorial, accompanying the study that becoming mother is apparently makes it less likely that breast cancer will develop in later life, the stage of life when the disease becomes common.

Many studies have demonstrated that mothers appear to attain a protective advantage against breast cancer in later life, which as per Dr. Armstrong could outweigh the earlier rise in risk.

Furthermore, the cancer prevention expert said that the transient increase in risk is minute, still it is vital for new mothers to visit a doctor if they notice any kind of abnormality in their breasts, rather than considering it a side-effect of childbirth, pregnancy, or breastfeeding.

The study researchers mentioned that the findings must not influence the decisions of women about if or when to conceive. But they added that the information together with other risk factors like family history, genetic tests, and reproductive history could help women and their doctors get an idea about the individual risks.

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