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Cancer Causes Control. 2010 Jul;21(7):967-89. doi: 10.1007/s10552-010-9524-7. Epub 2010 Mar 12.

Pregnancy characteristics and maternal breast cancer risk: a review of the epidemiologic literature.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, Vanderbilt Epidemiology Center, Institute for Medicine & Public Health, Vanderbilt University, 2525 West End Avenue, 8th Floor, Nashville, TN 37203-1738, USA.


The short- and long-term effects of pregnancy on breast cancer risk are well documented. Insight into potential biological mechanisms for these associations may be gained by studying breast cancer risk and pregnancy characteristics (e.g., preeclampsia, twining), which may reflect hormone levels during pregnancy. To date, no review has synthesized the published literature for pregnancy characteristics and maternal breast cancer using systematic search methods. We conducted a systematic search to identify all published studies. Using PUBMED (to 31 July 2009), 42 relevant articles were identified. Several studies suggest that multiple births may be associated with a lowered breast cancer risk of about 10-30%, but results were inconsistent across 18 studies. The majority of 13 studies suggest about a 20-30% reduction in risk with preeclampsia and/or gestational hypertension. Six of seven studies reported no association for infant sex and breast cancer risk. Data are sparse and conflicting for other pregnancy characteristics such as gestational age, fetal growth, pregnancy weight gain, gestational diabetes, and placental abnormalities. The most consistent findings in a generally sparse literature are that multiple births and preeclampsia may modestly reduce breast cancer risk. Additional research is needed to elucidate associations between pregnancy characteristics, related hormonal profiles, and breast cancer risk.

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