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Br J Cancer. 1995 Sep;72(3):744-51.

Familial risk, abortion and their interactive effect on the risk of breast cancer--a combined analysis of six case-control studies.

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  • 1Unité INSERM 351, Institut Gustave Roussy, Villejuif, France.


In a previous study in France, we reported that the relative risk of breast cancer associated with a family history of breast cancer was higher in those subjects with a history of abortions. The present study was undertaken to check the existence of this interaction in other studies and to investigate whether the interaction is modified by the time at which abortions occur. Data were obtained from six case-control studies in France, Australia and Russia, with information on family history of breast cancer and abortion for 2693 breast cancer cases and 3493 controls. The interaction effect was estimated in each study separately, then combined using a multivariate weighted average. The relative risk conferred by a family history of breast cancer increased with the number of abortions (1.8 for no abortion, 1.9 for one abortion, 2.8 for two or more). There was a significant interaction between total number of abortions and family history (P = 0.04), but this was no longer significant when adjusted for other risk factors. The familial risk was highest for those who had had an abortion before first childbirth (1.9 for abortion after first childbirth, 2.7 for abortion before first childbirth). The adjusted risk associated with family history was significantly higher in those with an abortion before first childbirth (P = 0.04). Our findings suggest a synergism between familial factors and abortion. The interaction was not substantially modified by the type of abortion (spontaneous or induced) but was modified by the time at which it occurred in relation to first childbirth. This suggests an effect of abortion itself rather than predisposition to abortion. Further studies of breast cancer cases, particularly among BRCA1 gene carriers and their families, could improve our understanding of this effect.

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