Pregnancy and IBC

An unusually high percentage of Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC) patients were pregnant or breastfeeding when they first developed symptoms.  I was.  In fact, Danny’s refusal to nurse on my right side was the very first sign that something was wrong with my breast.  Of course, I assumed his blindness was giving him positional aversion.  I wish I’d paid more attention.  Every other symptom came from there; most could be explained away as results of weaning.

This morning I read this article by Health Day.  It talks about how pregnancy activates a group of genes that control inflammation.  Their study shows there may be a connection between those genes and  Inflammatory Breast Cancer.

There is an interesting and contradictory history between pregnancy and breast cancer.  Most often women hear that pregnancy and breastfeeding help prevent breast cancer.  This is true… to a certain extent.  The younger a woman is when she has her first child the better the preventative effect.  However, a first child born after age 35 nets the mother roughly twice the risk of developing a breast cancer in her lifetime.  That fact alone could account for the increase in breast cancers in our generation.

The National Cancer Institute has a comprehensive list of the factors which will increase or decrease a woman’s risk of breast cancer.  It essentially breaks down to this, to optimize your chances of avoiding the beast you should have at least two kids at a young age and you should you should breast feed each of them for a year or longer.  And if you want to protect you children from breast cancer, too you should have the foresight to develop pre-eclampsia while you carry them.

That is all pretty much common knowledge.  What is not commonly known, however, is that a woman’s general risk of breast cancer is increased after a she gives birth.  Temporarily.  For a few years.  Contradictory.  So, if a mother can make it through the few years of increased susceptibility she decreases her overall chances of breast cancer.

Feels like it’s all out of our control, doesn’t it?  Except for the breastfeeding part.  That’s not completely true.  We can limit our alcohol intake.  We can maintain a healthy body weight because estrogen is created by fat and fat by estrogen.  It’s an infinite loop.  Gah!  Also, being physically active can reduce risk and eating lots of fruits and vegies.  Don’t you hate it when your parents turn out to be right about everything???

It’s not all bad news, however.  The NCI is doing research on how to mimic the protective effects of pregnancy.  Maybe if they can understand that will be able to use the knowledge for preventative strategies.

I pray for God to guide their research.  I pray for the day no other woman must lay down her baby and walk into a cancer clinic.

Cross posted to Mothers With Cancer.


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