Although reproductive factors have been known for decades to be associated with breast cancer risk, it is unclear to what extent these associations differ by estrogen and progesterone receptor (ER/PR) status. This report presents the first meta-analysis of results from epidemiological studies that have investigated parity, age at first birth, breastfeeding, and age at menarche in relation to ER +PR + and ER -PR - cancer risk.
We calculated summary relative risks (RRs) and corresponding 95% confidence intervals (CIs) using a fixed effects model.
Each birth reduced the risk of ER +PR + cancer by 11% (RR per birth = 0.89, 95% CI = 0.84–0.94), and women who were in the highest age at first birth category had, on average, 27% higher risk of ER +PR + cancer compared with women who were in the youngest age at first birth category (RR = 1.27, 95% CI = 1.07–1.50). Neither parity nor age at first birth was associated with the risk of ER -PR - cancer (RR per birth = 0.99, 95% CI = 0.94–1.05; RR of oldest versus youngest age at first birth category = 1.01, 95% CI = 0.85–1.20). Breastfeeding and late age at menarche decreased the risk of both receptor subtypes of breast cancer. The protective effect of late age at menarche was statistically significantly greater for ER +PR + than ER -PR - cancer (RR = 0.72 for ER +PR + cancer; RR = 0.84 for ER -PR - cancer, p for homogeneity = 0.006).