Recent childbirth is an adverse prognostic factor in breast cancer and melanoma, but not in Hodgkin lymphoma

Henrik Møller*, Arnie Purushotham, Karen Linklater, Hans Garmo, Lars Holmberg, Mats Lambe, Deborah Yallop, Stephen Devereux

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)


Background: The relationship between gestation, childbirth and cancer prognosis is unknown for most cancers (e.g. Hodgkin lymphoma), whereas a body of evidence exists for melanoma and breast cancer. Methods: The national cancer registration and hospital discharge data for women in England (1998-2007) were linked, and the records for Hodgkin lymphoma, melanoma and breast cancer were indexed as to whether women had delivered a child in separate time periods prior to their cancer diagnosis. Survival analyses were conducted in order to characterise prognosis in relation to childbirth, with statistical adjustment for age and (where possible) stage. Findings: For melanoma and breast cancer, survival was strongly reduced in women who gave birth in the year prior to cancer diagnosis. The age-adjusted hazard ratios (HR) with 95% confidence intervals (CI) were 2.06 (1.42-3.01) for melanoma and 1.84 (1.64-2.06) for breast cancer. The associations were only slightly attenuated by further adjustment for tumour stage. For breast cancer, the excess death rate in women with a recent childbirth peaked at 2 years and remained elevated for 6 to 8 years. Previous childbirth had no overall effect on the outcome of Hodgkin lymphoma. Interpretation: Melanoma and breast cancer prognosis are adversely affected by recent gestation and childbirth in a way that is not due to stage of the cancer, but rather to inherent biological properties of the tumours. Possible biological mechanisms include immunosuppression (melanoma), the hormonal milieu in gestation and a tumour promoting microenvironment post-partum (breast cancer).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3686-3693
Number of pages8
JournalEuropean Journal of Cancer
Issue number17
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This paper is a contribution from the National Cancer Intelligence Network and is based on the information collected and quality assured by the National Cancer Registration Service in England ( ; ). The research was supported by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Biomedical Research Centre based at Guy’s and St. Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust and King’s College London. The views expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the NHS, or the NIHR.

Copyright 2014 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


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