Abortion, Miscarriage, heightens Breast Cancer Risk
(BlackDoctor.org) — 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 developing breast 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 National Cancer Institute (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, clinical, 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 breast cancer.
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 cancer risk.
Ongoing Research Supported by the National Cancer Institute
Basic, clinical, and population research will continue to be supported which investigate the relationship and the mechanisms of how hormones in general and during pregnancy influence the development of breast cancer.
Important Information About Breast Cancer Risk Factors
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 postmenopausal women. More information about breast cancer risk factors is found in NCI’s publication What You Need To Know About™ Breast Cancer.
Important Information About Identifying Breast Cancer
NCI recommends that, beginning in their 40s, women receive mammography 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.
African Americans And Breast Cancer
(BlackDoctor.org) — Women get breast cancer when cells in the breast don’t grow right and a tumor forms. Getting a mammogram (x-ray of the breast) can help find the cancer early. This gives a woman more treatment options and makes it more likely she will survive the cancer.
African American women are more likely than all other women to die from breast cancer. Tumors are found at a later, more advanced, stage so there are fewer treatment options. Some reasons for this may include not being able to get health care or not following-up after getting abnormal test results. Other reasons may include distrust of the health care system, the belief that mammograms are not needed, or not having insurance.
We do not know how to prevent breast cancer. But there are things you can do to reduce your risk, such as keeping a healthy weight and limiting how much alcohol you drink.
There are things you can do to find breast cancer early:
• Get a mammogram. It is the best way to find out if you have breast cancer. A mammogram is an x-ray picture of the breast. It can find breast cancer that is too small for you or your doctor to feel. All women starting at age 40 should get a mammogram every one to two years. Talk to your doctor about how often you need a mammogram. If your mother or sister had breast cancer, you may need to start getting mammograms earlier.
• Get a clinical breast exam. This is a breast exam done by your doctor or nurse. She or he will check your breasts and underarms for any lumps, nipple discharge, or other changes. The breast exam should be part of a routine check up.
• Get to know your breasts. You may do monthly breast self-exams to check for any changes in your breasts. If you find a change, see your doctor right away.