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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – A new study finds women may have a higher risk of getting breast cancer after giving birth  compared to women who do not have children.

Women who have babies may face a greater risk of breast cancer, compared to women who don’t have children.

Researchers from the University of North Carolina found the increased risk lasts for decades from the time of the woman’s last child.

“It’s highest 5 years after the child is born and it continues for 24 years and then it starts to fall,” Dr. David Agus.

34 years after childbirth, the risk of breast cancer actually goes down 23 percent for women who have given birth.

Doctors say that’s an important point since most breast cancers happen in women over age 60.

“So if you look cumulatively, it decreases the risk because breast cancer is relatively rare in young women,” said Dr. Agus.

The study also found the increased risk of breast cancer after childbirth was higher for women who were older when they had their first child, for women who also had a family history of the disease and for women who had a higher number of births.

“This does change our screening criteria and now we’re going to ask when was your last child to determine if you should be screened or not,” said Dr. Agus.

Researchers say breastfeeding did not impact the results either way.

Health experts don’t know why the risk goes up for 24 years after childbirth but they think the estrogen surge during pregnancy may be a factor.

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