The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge. - Proverbs 1:7a

Pregnancy Does Not Increase Mortality From Breast Cancer

Scott Gottlieb, New York

Women who become pregnant after pre-menopausal stage I or stage II invasive breast cancer show no increase in mortality compared with those with no subsequent pregnancy, according to a new study.

The US study -- one of the first to investigate systematically the effect of pregnancy on patients' survival after a diagnosis of breast carcinoma -- followed 618 women in whom stage I or stage II invasive breast carcinoma was diagnosed before the age of 40 years. The diagnoses were all made between the years 1983 and 1992. The researchers compared the 53 women who became pregnant after the diagnosis with 265 matched controls with the disease who did not become pregnant. Results showed no significant difference in mortality (Cancer 1999;85:2424-32,2301-5).

Five of the women who became pregnant eventually died of the condition during the follow up period, compared with 34 of the women who did not become pregnant. The age adjusted relative risk of death associated with any subsequent pregnancy was 0.8 (95% confidence interval 0.3 to 2.3). "The results of our study support the growing consensus that subsequent pregnancy does not have an adverse effect on survival after breast carcinoma, particularly among women with local disease," said one of the research team, Dr Priscilla Velentgas, from the University of Washington, Seattle, who carried out the research in collaboration with a team from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, also in Seattle.

The researchers noted, however, that women who became pregnant after a diagnosis of breast cancer had a higher rate of miscarriage. The rate was 24% compared with 18% in controls of similar age who had never had breast cancer.

British Medical Journal, June 12, 2000; Permission granted by British Medical Journal

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