Having Children Early Can Prevent Breast Cancer

Having Children Early Can Prevent Breast Cancer

Many women are postponing pregnancy for career-based reasons. While the risk of infertility looms over these women, there is another risk they should be also aware of before postponing pregnancy; the risk of breast cancer. Delaying first pregnancy has been linked with an increased risk of this kind of cancer, while having kids at an earlier age can help women prevent the occurrence of breast cancer.

Read on to learn how early pregnancy helps you protect yourself from contracting breast cancer.

Protective Factors Reside Within the Breast

The exact cause of this type of cancer is unknown. Several factors such as heredity, presence of a particular gene (called BRCA1 gene) and other environmental factors are known to increase the risk of this kind of cancer in women. Recent studies have reported that certain protective mechanisms which can prevent the occurrence of breast cancer are present within the breast. These mechanisms were noted to be initiated during the first full term pregnancy (pregnancy that lasts for the complete term and ends with the delivery of the baby).

Early Pregnancy Initiates Cancer Prevention

Although the cancer preventive mechanism rested within the breasts, their activation was dependent on the time of pregnancy. Early pregnancies (those before age 20 – 30 years) were noted to activate this mechanism. The activation was brought about by the action of several hormones present within the body.

A major hormone had an important role, specifically a chemical that is initiated soon after conception (this hormone also helps in the diagnosis of pregnancy). The production of this hormone is important for the pregnancy to continue. Several other hormones and proteins are also secreted during this period. Studies have reported that if the levels of the hormone are high during the first trimester of pregnancy, there is a greater reduction in the risk of breast cancer after the age of 50 years.

In some of the studies, it has been noted that the risk of developing this form of cancer is reduced by 50% in women who get pregnant (full term pregnancy) for the first time before the age of 20 years, as compared to women who have their first baby after the age of 30 years.

In animal studies, it was noted that early first time pregnancy and a specific hormone initiate a complex mechanism which brings about certain changes at molecular levels within the breast tissues. As a result of this, the reparative ability of the breast tissues is increased along with the activation of genes that help in controlling the growth and death of tissues. These changes also help in preventing the incidence of breast cancer.

Role of Other Pregnancy-Related Factors

Along with the age at first full term pregnancy, many other pregnancy related factors were noted to have an influence on the risk of breast cancer. These included the number of children born, and the duration of breast feeding.

The risk of this cancer type was reduced by half in women who had given birth to more than 5 children, when compared to those who had not given birth at all. Breast feeding for a minimum period of 1 year after childbirth was also noted to decrease the risk to a great extent.

Pregnancy associated with childbirth is hence one of the most beneficial stages of life in women. With the increasing incidence of breast cancer in developing countries like the U.S., having a child early and following healthy practices such as breast feeding, can definitely help in reducing the burden of cancer and its related complications.

Having Children Early Can Prevent Breast Cancer

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