A startling new cancer study shows that women may want to be screened for breast cancer earlier in life than expected, especially if they’ve had children. The study was conducted by the University of North Carolina and the Institute of Cancer Research in London. Data was compiled from nearly 890,000 women of different ages. It is pretty shocking to hear that your chances of getting breast cancer increase immediately after giving birth, but it’s not all bad news. Childbirth and breastfeeding are still considered protective against cancer risk in the long term, but it takes about 20 years for those factors to come into play.
The study shows that women who’ve had children are at peak risk for breast cancer just five years after childbirth, and after that, the probability starts to decline. “The risk starts to fall after 24 years and is at its lowest 35 years out,” CBS News reports. Typically, women in their 50s, 60s, and 70s get screened for cancer, but this study suggests you may want to get tested earlier if you have given birth. Still, the rates of cancer for women in their 30s and 40s are very low.
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“If your last child was at age 35, we may start screening at age 40 instead of classically at age 50 because the risks may go up after five years out. And so it’s very important now that doctors ask this question and put them into the history of the patient,” Dr. David Agus, the director of USC Norris Westside Cancer Center, told CBS Morning News.
If a woman is 55 or younger, has given birth hasn’t had breast cancer, her risk decreases and will continue to decrease over time. So while it may sound scary that moms are more likely to get breast cancer, the good news is that we can test for it sooner, and the likelihood of being diagnosed with breast cancer decreases over time.