Pregnancy-associated breast cancer: nationwide Dutch study confirms a discriminatory aggressive histopathologic profile.



The median age of PABC patients was 34.3 years old (range 19-45 years) and most breast cancers were diagnosed during pregnancy (74.2%). As compared to age-matched controls, PABC patients had tumors of higher Bloom-Richardson grade (grade I: 1.5% vs. 12.4%, grade II: 16.9% vs. 31.3%, grade III: 80.3% vs. 39.5%, p < 0.0001). Furthermore, estrogen (ER)- and progesterone (PR)-receptor expression was less frequently reported positive (ER: 38.9% vs. 68.2% and PR: 33.9% vs. 59.0%, p < 0.0001), while a higher percentage of PABC tumors overexpressed HER2 (20.0% vs. 10.0%, p < 0.0001). The most observed intrinsic subtype in PABC was triple-negative breast cancer (38.3% vs. 22.0%, p < 0.0001), whereas hormone-driven cancers were significantly less diagnosed (37.9% vs. 67.3%, p < 0.0001).


Breast cancer is the most common type of malignancy in pregnant women, occurring approximately once in every 3000 pregnancies. Pregnancy-associated breast cancer (PABC) is commonly defined as breast cancer diagnosed during or within one year after pregnancy, and it accounts for up to 6.9% of all breast cancers in women younger than 45 years old. Whether these cancers arise before or during pregnancy, and whether they are stimulated by the high hormonal environment of pregnancy, is currently unknown. This study assesses the histopathological profile of PABC in a large Dutch population-based cohort.


We identified 744 patients with PABC (in this cohort defined as breast cancer diagnosed during or within 6 months after pregnancy) diagnosed between 1988 and 2019, in the nationwide Dutch Pathology Registry (PALGA). An age-matched PALGA cohort of unselected breast cancer patients (≤ 45 years), diagnosed between 2013 and 2016, was used as a control. Histopathologic features of both cohorts were compared.


This study, based on a large population-based cohort of 744 PABC Dutch patients, underlines the more aggressive histopathologic profile compared to age-matched breast cancer patients ≤ 45 years. Further in-depth genetic analysis will be performed to unravel the origin of this discriminating phenotype. It definitely calls for timely detection and optimal treatment of this small but delicate subgroup of breast cancer patients.

More about this publication

Breast cancer research and treatment
  • Volume 186
  • Issue nr. 3
  • Pages 699-704
  • Publication date 01-04-2021

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