Pregnancy and Breast Cancer

News — By on February 16, 2010 at 5:33 am

Very few pregnant women are diagnosed with breast cancer. But because more women are choosing to have children later in life, and because the risk of breast cancer increases as women age, there may be more cases in the future. For instance, only 1 in 50 breast cancers are found in woman under 35, but about 1 in 9 breast cancers are found in women aged 35 to 44. Women 45 and older have an even higher risk.

Estimates are that about 1 out of 3,000 pregnant women is diagnosed with breast cancer.

What is cancer?
Normal body cells grow, divide, and die in an orderly fashion. During the early years of a person’s life, normal cells divide more quickly until the person becomes an adult. After that, cells in most parts of the body divide only to replace worn-out or dying cells and to repair injuries.
Because cancer cells keep on growing and dividing, they are different from normal cells. Instead of dying, they outlive normal cells and keep making new, abnormal cells. Hormones like estrogen help normal breast cells grow and divide, but can also promote the growth of breast cancer cells.
How your menstrual cycles affect breast cancer risk
Women who are exposed to higher levels of estrogen over longer periods of time seem to have a slightly higher risk for breast cancer. This includes women who had more menstrual periods, such as those who started menstruating before age 12 or who went through menopause after age 55.

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