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Fox Chase Cancer Center Study Finds Women with Past Pregnancies Less Likely to Develop Distant Metastases After Breast-Conserving Treatment for Breast Cancer

PHILADELPHIA (Oct. 8, 2002)-Studies of risk factors for breast cancer have established that full-term pregnancy has a definite protective effect: bearing children before age 30 reduces breast cancer risk. Now a new study at Fox Chase Cancer Center has found that previous pregnancies improve the prognosis for certain women who develop breast cancer later in life.

Fox Chase radiation oncologist Penny R. Anderson, M.D., presented the study results Tuesday, Oct. 8 at the 44th annual meeting of the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology (ASTRO), held in New Orleans Oct. 6-10. The study compared two groups of women with stage I/II breast cancer treated with conservative surgery and radiation-women with prior pregnancies and those who had never been pregnant.

Among the patients 60 years or older, the researchers found a significant difference in survival rates: 76 percent for women with no prior pregnancy compared to 92 percent for women who had been pregnant earlier in life. The women with a history of pregnancy were less likely to die of breast cancer, less likely to develop distant metastases and also had a higher rate of overall survival.

Although the two groups had no statistically significant differences in terms of local and regional cancer recurrence, the women with no pregnancies had a significantly higher rate of metastases to distant sites in the body-18 percent compared to 13 percent. This holds important implications for treatment planning, the researchers concluded.

"For women 60 or older with early-stage breast cancer who have never been pregnant, our findings support an aggressive initial treatment approach," Anderson said. "Adjuvant systemic therapy should be strongly considered in these women."

Other authors of the study include biostatistician Alexandra L. Hanlon, Ph.D., and radiation oncologists Gary M. Freedman, M.D., and Nicos Nicolaou, M.D., all of Fox Chase Cancer Center.

Fox Chase Cancer Center, one of the nation's first comprehensive cancer centers designated by the National Cancer Institute in 1974, conducts basic and clinical research; programs of prevention, detection and treatment of cancer; and community outreach. For more information about Fox Chase activities, visit the Center's web site at

Fox Chase Cancer Center, part of the Temple University Health System, is one of the leading cancer research and treatment centers in the United States. Founded in 1904 in Philadelphia as one of the nation’s first cancer hospitals, Fox Chase was also among the first institutions to be designated a National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center in 1974. Fox Chase researchers have won the highest awards in their fields, including two Nobel Prizes. Fox Chase physicians are also routinely recognized in national rankings, and the Center’s nursing program has received the Magnet recognition for excellence four consecutive times. Today, Fox Chase conducts a broad array of nationally competitive basic, translational, and clinical research, with special programs in cancer prevention, detection, survivorship, and community outreach.  For more information, call 1-888-FOX CHASE or (1-888-369-2427).

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