Women who have been treated for breast cancer can have babies without increasing their risk of dying from their cancer, according to research published by The Times Friday.

Studies being presented at the European Breast Cancer Conference in Barcelona suggest that pregnancy may even have a protective effect.

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists does not advise against pregnancy, but recommends that women wait for up to five years after treatment, depending on the aggressiveness of the cancer, to allow assessment of long-term survival from the cancer.

A meta-analysis of 14 trials, carried out by researchers from Belgium and Italy, shows that pregnancy is safe for breast cancer survivors. It covered trials that had taken place between 1970 and 2009, involving 1417 pregnant women with a history of breast cancer and 18,059 women with a history of breast cancer who were not pregnant.

Hatem Azim, of the Institute Jules Bordet in Brussels, said that the findings did not support the notion that hormonal changes associated with pregnancy could prompt a cancer to recur or become more aggressive.

The analysis actually suggested that patients who became pregnant after a diagnosis of breast cancer had a reduction of 42 percent in the risk of death compared with those who did not get pregnant, Azim said.

He said that while it was well known that estrogen was linked to breast cancer, the apparent protective effect of pregnancy could be explained by higher levels of the hormone inhibiting cancer cells or the way the body bolstered its immune system.

"Our findings demonstrate that pregnancy is safe in women with a history of successfully treated breast cancer. There is a perception in the oncology community that women with history of breast cancer should not get pregnant for fear of pregnancy increasing the risk of recurrence by means of hormonal stimulation. This meta-analysis strongly argues against this notion."

SOURCE LINK: Times Online