Effect of pregnancy as a risk factor for breast cancer in BRCA1/BRCA2 mutation carriers

Int J Cancer. 2005 Dec 20;117(6):988-91. doi: 10.1002/ijc.21273.


Early age at first birth and multiparity have been associated with a decrease in the risk of breast cancer in women in the general population. We examined whether this relationship is also present in women at high risk of breast cancer due to the presence of a mutation in either of the 2 breast cancer susceptibility genes, BRCA1 or BRCA2. We performed a matched case-control study of 1,260 pairs of women with known BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations, recruited from North America, Europe and Israel. Women who had been diagnosed with breast cancer were matched with unaffected control subjects for year of birth, country of residence, and mutation (BRCA1 or BRCA2). Study subjects completed a questionnaire detailing their reproductive histories. Odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were derived by conditional logistic regression. Among BRCA1 carriers, parity per se was not associated with the risk of breast cancer (OR for parous vs. nulliparous = 0.94; 95% CI = 0.75-1.19; p = 0.62). However, women with a BRCA1 mutation and 4 or more children had a 38% decrease in breast cancer risk compared to nulliparous women (OR = 0.62; 95% CI = 0.41-0.94). In contrast, among BRCA2 carriers, increasing parity was associated with an increased risk of breast cancer; women with 2 or more children were at approximately 1.5 times the risk of breast cancer as nulliparous women (OR = 1.53; 95% CI = 1.01-2.32; p = 0.05). Among women with BRCA2 mutations and who were younger than age 50, the (adjusted) risk of breast cancer increased by 17% with each additional birth (OR = 1.17; 95% CI = 1.01-1.36; p = 0.03). There was no significant increase in the risk of breast cancer among BRCA2 carriers older than 50 (OR for each additional birth = 0.97; 95% CI = 0.58-1.53; p = 0.92). In the 2-year period following a birth, the risk of breast cancer in a BRCA2 carrier was increased by 70% compared to nulliparous controls (OR = 1.70; 95% CI = 0.97-3.0). There was a much smaller increase in breast cancer risk among BRCA2 carriers whose last birth was 5 or more years in the past (OR = 1.24; 95% CI = 0.79-1.95). A modest reduction in risk of breast cancer was observed among BRCA1 carriers with 4 or more births. Among BRCA2 carriers, increasing parity was associated with a significant increase in the risk of breast cancer before age 50 and this increase was greatest in the 2-year period following a pregnancy.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Female
  • Genes, BRCA1*
  • Genes, BRCA2*
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Heterozygote
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Middle Aged
  • Mutation*
  • Odds Ratio
  • Parity
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications*
  • Registries
  • Risk Factors
  • Time Factors