Women who give birth to big babies ‘at greater risk of breast cancer’

Big babies linked to breast cancer: Women who give birth to children weighing more than 9.9lb are ’50 per cent more likely’ to get the disease

  • Mothers who give birth to heavier babies are at greater risk of breast cancer 
  • Research also found that women who give birth prematurely are at greater risk
  • Breast cancer affects around 55,000 women a year and results in 11,000 deaths 

Women who give birth to big babies are at greater risk of breast cancer, according to a study.

Researchers also found that giving birth prematurely increases a woman’s risk of developing the disease.

The study adds to a growing body of evidence that hormonal and biological changes during pregnancy impact a woman’s vulnerability to breast cancer.

Breast cancer, which is the most common type of female cancer in Britain, affects around 55,000 women a year and results in 11,000 deaths.

Women who give birth to big babies are at greater risk of breast cancer, according to a study which found that giving birth prematurely increases a woman’s risk of developing the disease

Researchers at the Institute of Cancer Research examined data on 83,000 British women aged 16 to 102.

Of those, 1767 developed breast cancer over nine years. Women whose babies were born at a weight greater than 4.5kg (9.9lb) were 53 per cent more likely to develop the disease, according to results published in Breast Cancer Research.

While the study didn’t provide a causal link, levels of hormones including oestrogen – which is known to influence breast cancer – have higher rates with big babies.


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Anthony Swerdlow, who led the study, told the Times: ‘Sex hormone levels in pregnancy are far higher than are usual in the rest of a woman’s life.

‘Pregnancy makes a large difference to women’s subsequent breast cancer risk, and it seems reasonable that if pregnancy affects risk, the type of pregnancy might matter too.’

The scale of the extra risk was similar to that of obesity and higher than drinking a few glasses of wine a night.

The study adds to a growing body of evidence that hormonal and biological changes during pregnancy impact a woman’s vulnerability to breast cancer

But Mr Swerdlow added: ‘A woman’s risk of breast cancer is based on a very large number of factors, of which these aspects of pregnancy are potentially two, but it is important to consider all the factors together.

‘One should not reach conclusions, or be concerned, based on any one factor in isolation: it is the totality that matters.

‘The challenge is to target chemo prevention, and other measures such as screening, better.

‘Greater efforts are now being made to develop more accurate risk prediction, based on considering a larger number of risk factors together.’

Having children is widely known to reduce a woman’s chance of developing breast cancer in the long-term. But until now no previous studies had looked at how the type of pregnancy impacts the risk.

Is it not known at which exact birth weight the risk of getting breast cancer increases. 

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