Research finds pregnancies, miscarriages reduce risk of endometrial cancer

Women who suffer miscarriages and those who have full-term pregnancies could be at less risk of developing a common kind of cancer, a new study has found.

Researchers from the Queensland Institute of Medical Research (QIMR) Berghofer said the risk of endometrial cancer reduced by about 15 per cent with each pregnancy, for as many as eight pregnancies.

For miscarriages, that risk falls by about 7 per cent per miscarriage.

Endometrial cancer, also known as uterine cancer, affects the endometrium — the lining of the uterus or womb — and is the fifth most common cancer for Australian women.

Cancer Australia said the disease affected 3,115 women across the country in 2019, and claimed about 350 lives in 2018.

QIMR Berghofer’s Penelope Webb says miscarriages reduce the risk of endometrial cancer by about 7 per cent.(Supplied)

QIMR Berghofer researchers examined pregnancy data from 30 studies conducted in Australia and around the world by the Epidemiology of Endometrial Cancer Consortium.

This included 16,986 women with endometrial cancer and 39,538 women who never had the disease.

The research was led by Penelope Webb, the head of QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute’s Gynaecological Cancers group.

“It’s well known that having a full-term pregnancy reduces a woman’s risk of developing endometrial cancer,” Professor Webb said.

“But our research has shown that not only does each additional full-term pregnancy reduce that risk by about 15 per cent, the reduction continues for up to at least eight pregnancies.

“We have also clearly shown for the first time that pregnancies that end in a miscarriage also reduce risk of endometrial cancer by about 7 per cent.”

Women who give birth to boys at lower risk

Susan Jordan, the first author of the study and now an associate professor at the University of Queensland School of Public Health, said the findings questioned the long-held belief that only hormone levels in the last trimester provided protection against women’s cancers.

“While a full-term pregnancy is associated with the greatest reduction in risk for endometrial cancer, even pregnancies that end in the first or second trimester appear to provide women with some protection,” she said.

“This suggests that very high progesterone levels in the last trimester of pregnancy are not the sole explanation for the protective effect of pregnancy … early pregnancy factors may also be playing a protective role against this disease.”

A woman and her young son.
Brisbane mum Lily Dean says the research findings are good news for women.(ABC News: Jason Dasey)

Brisbane mother Lily Dean, who is pregnant with her second child, described the QIMR Berghofer findings as “surprising”.

“Most of the time all that mothers hear about are the terrible things that happen to your body when you’re pregnant,” Ms Dean said.

“The miscarriages part is very surprising, I would have thought it would be full-term only.”

Ms Dean, 23, said she and her 26-year-old husband Rodney found out yesterday that their two-year-old son Archie would have a brother when their second child is born next March.

The researchers found women who had only boys, like Ms Dean, had a lower risk of endometrial cancer than mothers of only girls.

A mix of boys and girls also lowered the risk, the study said.

Dr Jordan said the study would help ongoing research into cancer prevention for Australian women.

“This raises the need for more research to identify other factors that underlie this protective effect,” she said.

In a statement, Cancer Council Queensland CEO Chris McMillan said the charity welcomed research into endometrial cancer, which about 450 women are diagnosed with in Queensland every year.

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NSW proposes new laws to recognise pregnancies lost as result of crime

It is not necessary for the prosecution to prove the defendant knew or should have known the woman was pregnant.

The proposed changes would also allow the name of the child to be included in the formal criminal charge; allow close relatives to provide victim impact statements to the court; and allow families to receive funeral expenses where an unborn child is lost as a result of a car accident.

Mr Speakman said “the proposed amendments … recognise that the loss of a pregnancy falls into a unique, and especially serious, category of harm”.

Under existing laws, a person whose crime leads to “the destruction … of the foetus of a pregnant woman” can be charged with grievous bodily harm against the mother. The offence carries a maximum penalty of 25 years’ imprisonment.

But successive NSW governments have come under pressure to pass stand-alone laws criminalising the destruction of a foetus during the course of a crime, such as negligent driving or domestic violence.

The draft laws do not affect existing laws on abortion, and do not throw out the centuries-old “born alive rule” that provides an unborn child is not yet a legal person who can be the victim of a crime independent of their mother.

Mr Speakman told the Herald the proposed laws were a “more holistic approach” than creating a separate offence.

“These reforms deliver meaningful recognition for grieving families, without undoing longstanding legal principles,” he said.

Julia Quilter, criminal law expert and associate professor at the University of Wollongong, said “the loss of an unborn child is one of the most serious injuries a mother can experience” and “this draft bill is part of a number of attempts by the criminal law to recognise such harm”.

“In my view, the very unique and consequential nature of the harm suffered by a woman in losing an unborn child warrants singling out and marking that harm appropriately,” she said.

The draft bill ruffled some feathers among conservative Coalition MPs. The law does not go as far as a controversial private members’ bill known as “Zoe’s Law”, an earlier proposal by upper house MP Fred Nile to make it a separate offence to cause serious harm or death to a foetus.

Liberal MP for Mulgoa Tanya Davies was among fellow conservative MPs who raised concerns in a party room meeting on Tuesday the draft legislation was not what was promised in the 2019 election campaign. She said the government’s proposal was “a slap in the face” to grieving families.

“The Premier promised that once abortion legalisation was clarified by the NSW Parliament that Zoe’s Law would be next. We’ve waited over 12 months … It came today and it was nothing like we were expecting,” she said.

However, it is unclear that Ms Berejiklian committed to enacting Zoe’s Law. Her public statements suggested laws to “better recognise” the loss of an unborn child in a criminal act.

Hannah Robert, senior law lecturer at La Trobe University, lost her unborn eight-month-old daughter Zainab in a crash, while driving home with her family from a picnic in 2009.

She said she was encouraged to see the proposed legislation moved away from a using a foetal legal personhood model, under which a foetus is defined as a separate legal person to the mother.

“When people say it’s not going far enough, I think we’ve got to be really careful what they wish for,” she said.

Ms Robert said it was significant that the law expanded the category of who can make a victim impact statement.

“That was a crucial part of the criminal process. It meant we were heard. And not just me, but my partner who could speak as well.”

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Pregnancies leave Dogs in doubt for first final

Tiffany Wood and Pip Bruce are both pregnant. They have been living with the Dogs in the club’s Queensland hub however a match against West Coast would mean the Dogs will need to spend a week in quarantine in Perth before the game.

Coach Luke Beveridge said after the game he wasn’t sure if Bruce and Wood would make the trip to Western Australia should the Pies beat the Power.

Josh Bruce’s wife Pip has been living with the Dogs in the club’s Queensland hub.Credit:Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images

“Dunno. The girls aren’t due right now. I hope they come if we go there. I haven’t got the exact weeks. But on the scale of when ladies look pregnant, the girls look pregnant, very pregnant. They’re definitely in the third trimester, and deep into it,” Beveridge said.

Naughton was taken to hospital in Cairns after a hit from Docker Sean Darcy late in the second quarter of the Dogs’ win. Beveridge said Naughton was likely to need surgery.

“We believe it’s a depressed fracture of the cheekbone. It’s just where it is. Sometimes players can almost play the next week or in two weeks’ time, but if it’s up around the eyesocket it can be a bit worse. We haven’t got any confirmation on where it is but it’s pretty firm that he’s got a depressed fracture of his cheekbone. We think he’ll need surgery,” Beveridge said.

Key defenders Zaine Cordy and Alex Keath were both tried in attack following Naughton’s injury and Beveridge said the Dogs had several options if Naughton was ruled out.

“We need some aerial prowess [in defence]. We’ve got to determine whether or not we have one of those lads forward or we pick one of our bigger boys who are waiting in the wings or we play with a smaller forward line.”

In better news, Beveridge said Mitch Wallis “should be fine” after a late knock.

Beveridge praised his men for overcoming a slow start to the season.

“It is emotional. It’s been a tough home and away season. To think we were 0-2 and probably our integrity and brand as a team was questioned back then, and rightfully so. We were a bit unstable. The boys have done an amazing job when you consider the uncertainty and the challenges of the circumstances.

“To see what the lads have done over the course of the year and then the last few weeks … there’s something beyond pride that we all feel for them. And our staff as well, who’ve really done it tough away from home. So we’re just over the moon.”

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