Delaying Pregnancy Until Mid-30s May Help Prevent Ovarian Cancer, But Decreasing Fertility Complicates Issue

Many women live in fear of ovarian cancer, likely because it is one of the deadlier cancers and usually detected later than other cancers. That’s because it’s symptomatology is so vague. Many women do not experience any symptoms until their cancer is stage three or four and already metastasized or spread to local or remote areas of the body. This can make the disease very difficult to treat once it has advanced, and the mortality rate from such cancer remains very high, despite quite a bit of research dedicated to the genes that may contribute to breast and ovarian cancer.

Part of the fear of ovarian cancer is not only that is strikes women in the prime of their lives, it often has very vague symptoms that can easily be attributed to unrelated causes. These include bloating, early satiety, or feeling full after only a few bites of food, vague abdominal discomfort, and constipation. Many women attribute these to stress or gastrointestinal distress.

There have been many studies that having children early may prevent certain types of cancer. But when it comes to ovarian cancer, the latest research data shows that earlier motherhood is not better — in fact, it is a risk factor for developing ovarian cancer. Women who wait until their mid-thirties to become first time mothers may enjoy some protection against ovarian cancer.

However, there are caveats to waiting to conceive a child. A woman’s fertility begins to decrease in her late twenties and sharply decreases once she reaches the age of 35. This doesn’t mean that most 35-year-old women won’t conceive a child without the help of fertility intervention, but the incidence of infertility is higher and the average time it takes to conceive is longer, which is problematic because women usually don’t achieve pregnancy naturally much past their early forties.

In the newest study, researchers analyzed information from 1,700 women living in Los Angeles who had ovarian cancer and about 2,380 women living in the same area who did not have ovarian cancer, according to Yahoo! news.

The researchers of the study found that each five-year increase in a woman’s age at the birth of her first child corresponded to a 16 percent lower risk of ovarian cancer. In example, women who gave birth to their first child at age 35 or later had a 46 percent decrease in their risk of ovarian cancer compared with women who gave birth to their first child when they were younger than 20. However, they also discovered that the more children a woman had, the less likely she was to develop ovarian cancer.

Study researcher Alice Lee, a doctoral student at the University of Southern California, says that while these findings are promising, much more research needs to be done in this area to determine exactly why late motherhood offers protection.

“The fact that the timing [of the pregnancy] matters kind of shows there’s a little bit more to this link between ovulation and ovarian cancer. If you have a later age at first birth, you essentially are able to clear more of the malignancy-transformed cells (in the ovary).”

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