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Leadbeater said the advice for patients might vary depending on the type of breast cancer they've had and how they responded to treatment. Women who need hormone therapy for breast cancer typically need to be on it for five years -- during which time doctors recommend against getting pregnant.
Leadbeater and others said women should try to wait until two years after their diagnosis to try for a baby, since that is thought to be the riskiest time for a relapse.
Azim, who led the study, hypothesized that the relationship between hormones and breast cancer might be more complicated than doctors initially thought. Estrogen is known to trigger breast cancer and women typically have more estrogen when they're pregnant. But very high doses of the hormone can also kill cancer cells, Azim said.
Other hormones that are elevated in pregnancy, like the one for breast-feeding, have been proven to protect against breast cancer. "What we are seeing is only the tip of the iceberg," Azim said. "It's too simple to say that pregnancy stimulates hormones and that's bad for breast cancer."
Dr. Sibylle Loibl, an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Frankfurt said Azim's study should change what doctors tell patients.
"There's no reason for a breast cancer survivor not to have children if she wants to," Loibl said. She was not linked to Azim's study.
"As long as a woman completes her treatment for breast cancer, it should not be an issue," she said.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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