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Melanoma Res. 1996 Apr;6(2):147-53.

Malignant melanoma: reduced risk associated with early childbearing and multiparity.

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  • 1Department of Social Medicine, University Hospital, Uppsala, Sweden.


Pigmentary changes during pregnancy and sex-specific differences in incidence patterns of cutaneous malignant melanoma (CMM) suggest that sex hormones may be involved in the development of CMM. We explored possible associations between childbearing and the risk of CMM in a case-control study "nested' in a nation-wide cohort. A total of 4,779 incident cases of CMM in women aged 24-65 were compared with 23,888 individually age-matched controls. Delayed childbearing was associated with an increased risk of CMM, corresponding to approximately 16% per 5 years. Parous women had a significantly lower risk of CMM compared with nulliparous women; in univariate analysis there was an 8% reduction in risk for each additional birth (odds ratio = 0.92; 95% confidence interval = 0.89-0.95). In multivariate analyses the risk of CMM was best explained by a model including both age at first birth and parity. Age at first birth was the most important variable. Time since most recent birth was unrelated to risk of CMM. These findings indicate that early childbearing and multiparity reduce the risk of CMM. Conceivable explanations are hormonal changes induced by childbearing, enhanced immunologic activity via exposure to fetal antigens during pregnancy, or long-lasting effects of pregnancy-associated hyperpigmentation. Our results need confirmation in studies with proper adjustment for confounding; less sun exposure in young mothers and high parity women may represent an alternative explanation but is unlikely to explain entirely the twofold difference in risk found between extreme categories of age at first birth and parity.

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