Breast CancerPage 1 of 1
Breast Cancer Risk, Abortion and Miscarriage
A woman’s hormone levels normally change throughout her life for a variety of reasons, and these hormonal changes can
lead to changes
in her breasts. Many such hormonal changes occur during pregnancy, changes that may influence a woman’s chances of
cancer later in life. As a result, over several decades a considerable amount of research has been and continues to be
conducted to determine whether having an induced abortion, or a miscarriage (also known as spontaneous abortion),
influences a woman’s
chances of developing breast cancer later in life.
In February 2003, the (NCI) convened a workshop of over 100 of the world’s leading experts who study
pregnancy and breast cancer risk. Workshop participants reviewed existing population-based, and animal studies on
the relationship between pregnancy and breast cancer risk, including studies of induced and spontaneous
abortions. They concluded that having an abortion or miscarriage does not increase a woman’s subsequent risk of developing
The relationship between induced and spontaneous abortion and breast cancer risk has been the subject of extensive research
beginning in the late 1950s. Until the mid-1990s, the evidence was inconsistent. Findings from some studies suggested there
was no increase in risk of breast cancer among women who had had an abortion, while findings from other studies suggested
there was an increased risk. Most of these studies, however, were flawed in a number of ways that can lead to unreliable
results. Only a small number of women were included in many of these studies, and for most, the data were collected only
after breast cancer had been diagnosed, and women’s histories of miscarriage and abortion were based on
their "self-report" rather than on their medical records. Since then, better-designed studies have been conducted.
These newer studies examined large numbers of women, collected data before breast cancer was found, and gathered
medical history information from medical records rather than simply from self-reports, thereby generating more reliable
findings. The newer studies consistently showed no association between induced and spontaneous abortions and breast
Important Information About Breast Cancer
At present, the factors known to increase a woman’s chance of developing breast cancer include age (a woman’s chances
of getting breast cancer increase as she gets older), a family history of breast cancer, an early
age at first menstrual period, a late age at menopause, a late age at the time of birth of her first full-term baby, and
certain breast conditions. Obesity is also a risk factor for breast cancer in postmenapausal women.
Important Information About Identifying Breast Cancer
The National Cancer Institute recommends that, beginning in their 40s, women receive screening every year or two. Women who have a higher than average
risk of breast cancer (for example, women with a family history of breast cancer) should seek expert medical advice about
whether they should be screened before age 40, and how frequently they should be screened.
More Information From National Institute of Health
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