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Study Indicates That Pregnancy is Safe for Women with Estrogen-Sensitive Breast Cancer

Posted on the 26 March 2012 by Jean Campbell


One of the many issues that young women face after a breast cancer diagnosis is whether or not it is safe to get pregnant after treatment is over. The main concern for women whose tumors were estrogen fed…will the increase in estrogen during pregnancy trigger a recurrence or a new primary?

A small study of just this concern was conducted in Europe and the results shared at a recent European conference. What follows is an overview of information distributed in a news release last week.

Study results presented at the recent European Breast Cancer Conference in Vienna, Austria by Dr. Azim and other researchers suggest that becoming pregnant at any time after being diagnosed with breast cancer does not increase the risk of recurrence. This holds true even if the pregnancy occurs within two years after cancer diagnosis.

Given that estrogen–sensitive breast cancers are especially sensitive to levels of estrogen in the body, the concern, going into the study was that pregnancy could increase circulating estrogen and thereby cause the cancer to return.

The study included 333 breast cancer patients who later became pregnant and 874 breast cancer patients who did not. Over an average of nearly five years of follow-up, breast cancer recurred in 30 percent of all the women.

Fifty-seven percent of the women in the study had estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer. Becoming pregnant made no difference in the length of time that patients with either estrogen receptor-positive or estrogen receptor-negative breast cancer survived without their cancer recurring.

“However, a clear trend over time was not demonstrated; hence this finding should be interpreted with caution as it could be confounded by potential selection bias, and hence pregnancy within two years of diagnosis should be regarded as safe, and not as protective,” Azim noted.

A secondary goal of the study was to determine the impact of pregnancy on overall survival.

“We found that breast cancer patients who became pregnant also had a lower risk of death compared to their matched controls, irrespective of [estrogen receptor] status,” Azim said.

A word of caution given in the news release:  Because this study was presented at a medical meeting, the data and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

SOURCE: European Breast Cancer Conference, news release, March 2012)

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