Breast cancer is currently the second most common cancer among women in the United States, with about two hundred and fifty thousand new cases diagnosed every year, according to the CDC.
The long-known risk factors for this disease have included older age, genetic mutations, reproductive history, radiation therapy exposure, and family history.
But, a new study conducted by researchers at Oregon Health & Science University’s Knight Cancer Institute has found that breast cancers that develop within five years of childbirth are more likely to metastasize– or spread to other organs– and become fatal.
The study also revealed that recent childbirth is an independent breast cancer risk factor.
And unfortunately, these two discoveries suggest that current clinical guidelines are not equipped to both effectively predict cancer recurrence risk and inform treatment strategies since postpartum status is not taken into account.
“This has profound implications for prognosis. A postpartum diagnosis can move women who appear to have a good prognosis into a high-risk category,” said Pepper Schedin, a senior author of the study.
The team of researchers was first able to confirm a link between pregnancy and breast cancer outcomes by utilizing the Utah Population Database– which combines patient records, Utah Cancer Registry data, and statewide death and birth records.
Then, the study ultimately included nearly three thousand patients who were diagnosed with breast cancer at or under the age of forty-five.
Eight hundred and sixty of these patients never gave birth. And the patients who did were divided into three categories based on the amount of time since their most recent delivery.
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