Preeclampsia May Increase Risk for Kidney Cancer, But Decrease Risk of Other Malignancies: Study

Women who suffer from preeclampsia during pregnancy may be at an increased risk of developing kidney cancer, according to the findings of a new study.

French researchers sought to determine whether preeclampsia complications during a woman’s first pregnancy may increase the risk of cancer, including myelodysplastic syndromes and kidney cancer. While some of those risks do appear increased, they also discovered the risks of breast cancer actually dropped.

The findings were published on June 23 in JAMA Network Open.

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Preeclampsia can be a life-threatening condition for pregnant women if not treated early, potentially leading to seizures and strokes. It is often preceded by high blood pressure, diabetes, and kidney disease. It is also the leading cause of pregnancy-related death worldwide, largely because hospitals are unprepared to treat the condition.

Other studies have linked preeclampsia to a range of complications, including increased risk of kidney disease later in life, increased likelihood the infant will be born with cerebral palsy if they are also premature, and an increased risk that future pregnancies will be preterm births.

However, in this latest study, researchers say there are several factors which could influence the link between preeclampsia and some forms of cancer, with both negative and positive results. They report preeclampsia could cause hormonal surges and disorders which may increase the risk of hormone-dependent cancers. But the same surges could also restrict tumor growth and thus decrease the risk of other malignancies.

Researchers conducted a retrospective cohort study involving more than 4.3 million women who were hospitalized while pregnant at a French hospital between January 1, 2010 and December 31, 2019. They looked for cases of preeclampsia or eclampsia during first pregnancies, and followed up with the women over a maximum period of eight years, looking for indications of cancer.

According to the findings, 0.7% of the women were diagnosed with cancer after their pregnancy. Preeclampsia during the first pregnancy led to more than twice the risk of myelodysplastic syndromes or myeloproliferative diseases, and double the risk of kidney cancer. However, it appears the risks of breast cancer and cervical cancer actually decreased by about a quarter.

“In this study, a history of preeclampsia/eclampsia during first pregnancy was associated with an increase in the incidence of myelodysplastic or myeloproliferative diseases and kidney cancer and a decrease in the incidence of cervical and breast cancers,” the researchers determined. “These associations might reflect an underlying common factor among preeclampsia/eclampsia and these pathologies and/or an association between preeclampsia/eclampsia and the development of these cancers.”

In 2017, an investigative report revealed that U.S. doctors lag behind those in other developed nations in treating and preventing injury or death from preeclampsia.

Globally, preeclampsia kills about five women an hour. However, the death risk from preeclampsia varies widely between developed countries and third world countries.

In the U.K, preeclampsia occurs in about 1 out of every 1 million pregnancies. Between 2012 and 2014, there were only two deaths from preeclampsia in the U.K.. In the U.S., nearly 70 women, or eight percent of all maternal deaths, die from preeclampsia each year.

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