While women are encouraged to have children in their twenties, researchers have found that women who have children in their 30’s and 40’s have a decreased risk of endometrial cancer — which develops in the lining of the uterus.
According to the new study, women who gave birth over age 40 were 44 percent less likely to develop endometrial cancer, than women whose last birth occurred at or before age 25.
Women whose last birth occurred between ages 35 -39, had a 32 percent decreased risk. There was a 17 percent decreased risk found in women who last gave birth between ages 30 and 34, compared to women who delivered their last baby at age 25.
“The protection persists for many years,” said author Wendy Setiawan, professor of preventative medicine at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine.
Researchers studied 8,671 women with endometrial cancer and 16,562 women without the disease. They examined how childbearing affected women’s cancer risk, and took into account other variables known to affect risk, such as contraception use and the number of children a woman had.
Researchers aren’t sure why later childbearing may affect endometrial cancer risk. Setiawan said it may be due to hormone levels during pregnancy, which are beneficial in preventing cancer at older ages. Additionally, giving birth may rid the uterus of cancer-causing cells, she said, or it could be that women who are able to become pregnant later in life have healthier uteruses to begin with.
The research is very useful to studies looking at the health effects of later childbearing. While this is a positive outcome of late childbearing, there are still known disadvantages of giving birth in your 30’s and 40’s. This includes a higher likelihood of delivering a smaller baby, and complications during late pregnancy and childbirth. Studies have also shown that women who give birth to their first child at later ages have an increased risk of developing ovarian and breast cancer.