The relationship between delayed childbearing and breast cancer

Although breast cancer is more common in women over the age of 50, younger women are also at risk. The results of a recent study conducted by scientists at Cancer Research UK suggests that one in five cases of breast cancer occurs in women under the age of 50. More than 10, 000 younger women are diagnosed with this disease each year in the UK. In Canada, 18% of breast cancer cases are diagnosed in women under 50. Similar rates have been reported in the United States. Breast cancers in younger women tend to be more aggressive, with 10% of all breast cancer deaths in Canada occurring for women under 50. Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths for Canadian women under 40.

Some of the risk factors for developing breast cancer include alcohol use and smoking, delaying pregnancy and childbirth until women are in their 30s or 40s, having fewer children, the use of synthetic hormones (e.g., contraceptives, IVF) – factors that are increasingly common among today’s younger women.

Says Sarah Williams, health information officer at Cancer Research UK:

“There’s no need to panic…We don’t release this information to scare women. But it is important for women of all ages to realize that breast cancer could affect them. We don’t want anyone to dismiss symptoms because they think they’re too young.” 

Some lifestyle changes can be made relatively easily to help reduce the risk of developing breast cancer (e.g., reducing alcohol intake, exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight). Others, such as the timing of having children, are harder to realize. Dr. Caitlin Palframan, Head of Policy at Breakthrough Breast Cancer understands the difficulty in making bigger lifestyle changes that aren’t easy to achieve. Says Palframan:

“Having children later in life and having fewer of them does increase your risk of developing breast cancer…But there are so many good, personal reasons to delay too.”

She believes that being aware of the fact that delaying childbearing can increase the risk of developing breast cancer may be helpful to women in making more informed decisions about their health and fertility.

Read more about this topic here and here.

To read more about the relationship between breast cancer risk and women’s reproductive histories, click here and here.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>