Better Health: Smart Health Commentary Better Health (TM): smart health commentary

Article Comments

Morning Sickness and Breast Cancer?

This is the weird correlation of the week: women who suffer with symptoms of morning sickness during their pregnancies may be less likely to develop breast cancer later on in life.  A group of epidemiologists in Buffalo recently reported this finding at a scientific meeting (Society for Epidemiologic Research).  No one is sure what this means, and I dare not speculate… but perhaps there’s some kind of link between a woman’s hormone levels produced during pregnancy, the nausea they cause, and the hormonal milieu that is the background for breast cancer?  Or maybe this study has turned up a false association.  Only time – and a lot more research – will tell.  Of course, if anyone should speculate on this, it’s the breast cancer oncologists like Dr. Gluck.  So I dropped him an email to ask him what he thinks.

Dr. Gluck said that first of all, the association between morning sickness and decreased breast cancer risk is relatively weak.  So here’s what the numbers mean: For the average 50 year old woman, the standard risk for developing breast cancer is about 2% (one in
50). According to this study, that same woman (if she had severe morning sickness at some point during pregnancy), is about 1.4%  (~30%

Dr. Gluck speculates (and this is quite fascinating) that women with morning sickness are subjected to a hormonal milieu that may result in permanent alterations in their breast tissue.  The breast tissue (having been exposed to surges of hormones, insulin, and changing blood pressure and blood sugar levels) might be less vulnerable to the genetic mutations that cause cancer.

We’ve known for a long time that women who have children are at lower risk for breast cancer than women who don’t… now it seems that there might be something about women who are really sick when they’re pregnant and decreased risk of breast cancer as well.This post originally appeared on Dr. Val’s blog at

You may also like these posts

    None Found

Read comments »

Comments are closed.

Return to article »

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

Read more »

How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

Read more »

See all interviews »

Latest Cartoon

See all cartoons »

Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

Read more »

The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

Read more »

Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

Read more »

See all book reviews »

Commented - Most Popular Articles