Go to content

Association of the timing of pregnancy with survival in women with breast cancer


Importance — Increasing numbers of women experience pregnancy around the time of, or after, a diagnosis of breast cancer. Understanding the effect of pregnancy on survival in women with breast cancer will help in the counseling and management of these women.

Objective — To compare the overall survival of women diagnosed with breast cancer during pregnancy or in the postpartum period with that of women who had breast cancer but did not become pregnant.

Design, Setting, and Participants — This population-based, retrospective cohort study linked health administrative databases in Ontario, Canada, comprising of 7553 women aged 20 to 45 years at the time of diagnosis with invasive breast cancer, from January 1, 2003, to December 31, 2014.

Exposures — Any pregnancy in the period from 5 years before, until 5 years after, the index date of the diagnosis of breast cancer. Women were classified into the following 4 exposure groups: no pregnancy (the referent), pregnancy before breast cancer, pregnancy-associated breast cancer, and pregnancy following breast cancer.

Main Outcomes and Measures — Five-year actuarial survival rates for all exposure groups, age-adjusted and multivariable hazard ratios [HRs] of pregnancy for overall survival for all exposure groups, and time-dependent hazard ratios for women with pregnancy following breast cancer.

Results — Among the 7553 women in the study (mean age at diagnosis, 39.1 year; median, 40 years; range, 20-44 years) the 5-year actuarial survival rate was 87.5% (95% CI,86.5%-88.4%) for women with no pregnancy, 85.3% (95% CI, 82.8%087.8%) for women with pregnancy before breast cancer (age-adjusted hazard ratio, 1.03; 95% CI, 0.85-1.27; P= .73), and 82.1% (95% CI, 78.3%-85.9%) for women with pregnancy-associated breast cancer (age-adjusted hazard ratio, 1.18; 95% CI, 0.91-1.53; P= .20). The 5-year actuarial survival rate was 96.7% (95% CI,94.1%-99.3%) for women who had pregnancy 6 months or more after diagnosis of breast cancer, vs 87.5% (95% CI, 86.5%-88.4%) for women with no pregnancy) (age-adjusted HR, 0.22; 95% CI, 0.10-0.49; P< .001).

Conclusions and Relevance — Pregnancy did not adversely affect survival in women with breast cancer. For breast cancer survivors who wish to conceive, the risk of death is lowest if pregnancy occurs 6 months or more after diagnosis.



Iqbal J, Amir E, Rochon PA, Giannakeas V, Sun P, Narod SA. JAMA Oncol. 2017; 3(5):659-65. Epub 2017 Mar 9.

Contributing ICES Scientists

Associated Sites