In the United States, approximately one in eight women will face breast cancer at some point in her life. Now, new research shows that women who have given birth are more likely to get breast cancer than other women.

Mothers face an increased risk of breast cancer up to twenty years after childbirth. The risk may be enhanced when a woman is older at first birth or has a family history of breast cancer. Findings from conducted by Hazel Nicols a member of the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center are published in Annals of Internal Medicine.

These findings highlight the importance of getting a regular breast cancer screening.

The Study

For their analysis, researchers examined data from 15 studies from around the world. They observed over 800,000 women with a specific focus on factors that other studies on the topic had overlooked.

In addition to looking at breast cancer risk after childbirth, they also evaluated the impact of other factors, such as breastfeeding and a family history of breast cancer. The researchers looked at the ages of these women when they contracted breast cancer, and they compared the breast cancer rates of women who had recently given birth with the incidence rates of women who had never given birth.

The risk of breast cancer hit its highest point about 5 years after women had given birth. At this time, mothers in this age range had an 80 percent higher chance of developing breast cancer compared with those women who had not gone through childbirth.

The authors note that this risk was more prominent for women who fit into one of three categories:

  • women who had a family history of breast cancer
  • women who were older at the time of their first birth
  • women who had had more children overall

To be on the safe side, women should get a breast cancer screening during the five years after childbirth, particularly if they fit into any of these three categories.

Typically, doctors suggest that women get a breast cancer screening based on their age. Doctors also urge women to get a breast cancer screening once they turn 40 years old. However, high-risk women should get screenings when they are younger, and this research indicates that all mothers who have given birth fall into this category for the time period specified above.

The Hazard Ratio and Breast Cancer Screening

At age 45, women who have not given birth face breast cancer at a rate of 620 cases per 100,000 women, and women in this age group who have given birth in the last 3 to 6.9 years have 661 cases per 100,000 women. At age 47.5, women who haven’t given birth have 1,252 cases per 100,000 women, but if they have given birth, the rate is 1,422. At age 50, the number of cases for women who haven’t given birth is 1,955, and for women who have given birth, it is 2,202 cases.

The number of women who have given birth recently is significantly higher than those who have not. If you have recently given birth or if you have given birth in the last 24 years, you face a heightened risk of breast cancer. The risk can be even higher if you have other risk factors such as hereditary links to breast cancer, certain genetic anomalies, or a history of a disease that requires a lot of x-rays.

American Health Imaging Can Help

Many people are now turning to MRIs and imaging for more effective breast cancer screening. At American Health Imaging, we can do breast cancer screenings for you or your patients. Contact us to learn more.