The pregnancy-lactation cycle (PLC) is a period in which the breast is transformed from a less-developed, nonfunctional organ into a mature, milk-producing gland that has evolved to meet the nutritional, developmental, and immune protection needs of the newborn. Cessation of lactation initiates a process whereby the breast reverts to a resting state until the next pregnancy. Changes during this period permanently alter the morphology and molecular characteristics of the breast (molecular histology) and produce important, yet poorly understood, effects on breast cancer risk. To provide a state-of-the-science summary of this topic, the National Cancer Institute invited a multidisciplinary group of experts to participate in a workshop in Rockville, Maryland, on March 2, 2012. Topics discussed included: 1) the epidemiology of the PLC in relation to breast cancer risk, 2) breast milk as a biospecimen for molecular epidemiological and translational research, and 3) use of animal models to gain mechanistic insights into the effects of the PLC on breast carcinogenesis. This report summarizes conclusions of the workshop, proposes avenues for future research on the PLC and its relationship with breast cancer risk, and identifies opportunities to translate this knowledge to improve breast cancer outcomes.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research