Friday, July 11, 2008

What is Our Cancer Risk?

I have been doing research lately on the risk of certain cancers for childless women. I have now read dozens of times that childlessness increases the risk of breast, ovarian and uterine cancers. Apparently pregnancy offers some protection by giving us a break from nonstop estrogen onslaughts every month, and there are other hormonal protections that develop. There's a trick to this. In order to reap the benefits, you have to give birth before 30 or 35, depending on which expert you ask, and you have to carry the pregnancy to term. Abortions and miscarriages do not help; in fact, they may increase the risk.

What I'm finding frustrating is that so far I can't find out how much risk we're talking about. In the U.S. the standard is that 1 in 8 women will have breast cancer. But if we haven't had children, what is the ratio? 1 in 7, 1 in 6, worse? Or is the risk so small there's no point in worrying about it? That's what I'm trying to find out.

It does appear that having a family history of cancer is much more likely to be a problem, and of course if you've had suspicious mammograms or biopsies before, the odds get really scary.

As far as I know, I don't have any cancer, but I'm waiting for my pap smear results and having my mammogram in August, so I can't say for sure that I'm cancer-free. I'm surrounded by friends with cancer right now. Nobody can be smug about this stuff.

I'm still working on this project and when/if I get the numbers, I will share them here. Meanwhile, if you'd like to know more about female cancers, here are some sites to check out: National Cancer Institute, Cancer Answers, American Cancer Society, and the World Oncology Network.

If you have information on this subject or know someone good to interview, please let me know.

Stay healthy, okay?

1 comment:

Portraits In Sepia said...

I don't have any information but I do get really frustrated when reading those statistics. And I have severe endometriosis to boot which also increases the chances of certain cancers like ovarian cancer.