Pregnancy and Breast Cancer

Creative Commons License photo credit: Poldavo (Alex)

Pregnancy is a significant event from your body’s perspective. Not only are there the visible changes – your growing belly, swollen breasts, and more – there are changes you don’t see. One of the areas that pregnancy can affect your health is in regard to breast cancer. There are actually a number of factors in relation to pregnancy that impact your breast cancer risk:

  • If you have your first pregnancy prior to the age of 20, your risk of breast cancer is nearly half the rate of women who first get pregnant after the age of 30. While this isn’t a reason to decide to have a child before you’re ready, it should make you more aware of the increased risk if you’re getting pregnant for the first time after 30.
  • The more children you have, the more your risk of breast cancer drops. Women that have had 5 or more children have about half the risk of breast cancer as women who have had no children. The risk declines slightly with each pregnancy.
  • If you had preeclampsia (high blood pressure due to pregnancy) during pregnancy, you may have a lower risk of breast cancer.
  • Breastfeeding for at least one year creates a lower risk of certain types of breast cancer, as well. This only applies for breastfeeding for an extended period, not all of your breastfeeding time added up.
  • Your risk of developing breast cancer increases slightly just after you’ve given birth. That increased risk slowly declines over the next 10 years.
  • DES is a medication used from the 1940s to the 1970s that was thought to help prevent miscarriage, as well as prevent a number of other pregnancy-related problems. Women that took this medication during their pregnancy have a slightly increased risk for breast cancer when compared to women who didn’t take the drug.

The risk of breast cancer probably isn’t the most important reason to decide when you want to start a family by itself, but it’s certainly something worth taking into consideration. At the very least, if you fall into those riskier categories it’s worth making sure you have regular breast cancer screenings.


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