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Morning Sickness may Signify Lower Breast Cancer Risk

Women who suffer bouts of nausea and vomiting during their pregnancies may be envious of those ladies who don't, but it but it seems that going through morning sickness is a good thing after all.

Or so say boffins who have conducted a new study and found that women who suffer from morning sickness have a 30 percent lower risk of developing breast cancer later in life than expecting mums who don't.

The study was conducted epidemiologists at the University at Buffalo led by David Jaworowicz, Jr.

"Although the exact mechanism responsible for causing nausea and vomiting during pregnancy has yet to be pinpointed, it likely is a result of changing levels of ovarian and placental hormone production, which may include higher circulating levels of a hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin," he said.

This human chorionic gonadotropin hormone, Jaworowicz said may help against breast cancer as it possesses several activities that have potential protective effects against cancer cells.

"In vitro studies have shown that this hormone possesses several activities that have potential protective effects against cancer cells," said Jaworowicz, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Social Preventive Medicine in UB's School of Public Health and Health Professions.

The study was based on data from participants in the Western New York Exposure and Breast Cancer Study, a population-based case-control study of breast cancer conducted in women 35-79 from two Western New York counties between 1996 and 2001.

The analysis compared extensive data on pregnancy-related conditions from 1,001 women with primary breast cancer and 1,917 women without breast cancer matched to cases by age and race who served as controls.

"Pregnancy is a time when the breast undergoes a variety of cellular and anatomical changes. During this period, the breast tissue is exposed to varying levels of a numbe r of hormones, which may affect the physiology of the breast," said Jaworowicz.

"We were interested in the association between pregnancy-related events and characteristics, including pregnancy-induced hypertension, preeclampsia/eclampsia, gestational diabetes, high weight gain during pregnancy, and nausea and vomiting, because these markers may serve as proxies for underlying hormonal changes and altered hormone levels in blood and tissue," he added.

Jaworowicz noted that the presence or absence of these pregnancy-related conditions may indicate a different course or extent of hormone-regulated breast tissue proliferation and differentiation during pregnancy, but also may indicate distinct hormonal profiles that persist following pregnancy.

Evidence from the current analysis did suggest that the lower risk of developing breast cancer observed with nausea and vomiting was stronger as the symptoms became more severe, or persisted longer into pregnancy.

"Pregnancy is a time of drastic physiological changes, including rapid development and alterations in the breast tissue. The rapidly changing anatomy of the breast makes it more susceptible to errors in DNA replication and/or repair, which may translate into breast cancer," he said.

"Associated with these changes are the fluctuating hormonal profiles that must be kept in a delicate balance. If the correct ratios and relative amounts between these hormones are not maintained within a normal range, certain pregnancy-related outcomes may emerge, such as high blood pressure, glucose intolerance and gestational diabetes, eclamptic conditions with seizures and/or toxemia, or extremely severe nausea.

"These pregnancy-related factors may serve as indicators of underlying biological conditions that may influence a woman's lifetime risk for breast cancer," he added.

The study and its results were presented at the Society for Epidemio logic Research's annual meeting in Boston.


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