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Abstract

Several large epidemiological studies in the Nordic countries have failed to confirm an association between age at first birth and breast cancer independent of parity. To assess whether lack of power or heterogeneity between the countries could explain this, a meta-analysis was performed of 8 population-based studies (3 cohort and 5 case-control) of breast cancer and reproductive variables in the Nordic countries, including a total of 5,568 cases. It confirmed that low parity and late age at first birth are significant and independent determinants of breast-cancer risk. Nulliparity was assoclated with a 30% increase in risk compared with parous women, and for every 2 births, the risk was reduced by about 16%. There was a significant trend of increasing risk with increasing age at first birth, women giving first birth after the age of 35 years having a 40% increased risk compared to those with a first birth before the age of 20 years. Tests for heterogeneity between studies were not significant for any of the examined variables. In the absence of bias, this suggests that several individual Nordic studies may have had too little power to detect the weak effect of age at first birth observed in the meta-analysis.