Knowledge of the epidemiology of breast cancer would seem to have reached the point where it should be possible to formulate and test rather specific etiologic hypotheses. To emphasize this point, we may consider one of the findings from a recently completed international collaborative study, in which histories of reproduction, lactation and illness among breast cancer cases were compared with those of women hospitalized for other diseases. The study was undertaken in seven centers representing populations with very different breast cancer incidence rates [1]. A strong association was noted between age at first birth and breast cancer risk (Fig. 1). Women who had a first child prior to age 18 had only about one third the breast cancer risk of those whose first birth was delayed until the age of 35 or later [2]. Births after the first appeared to have little or no effect on breast cancer risk, the association between total parity and breast cancer risk noted in earlier studies being a consequence of the negative correlation between age at first birth and total parity.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1972

Authors and Affiliations

  • Brian MacMahon
    • 1
  • Philip Cole
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of EpidemiologyHarvard School of Public HealthBostonUSA

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