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Plasma volume expansion in pregnancy: Implications for biomarkers in population studies

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There is a growing body of literature focused on endogenous hormone exposures during pregnancy and subsequent cancer risk for both mother and offspring. Examples of these studies include those focused on the biological mechanism for the association of preeclampsia with reduced risk of breast cancer for mother and female offspring or studies that have examined hormone concentrations during pregnancy between different ethnic groups who vary in their rates of breast cancer incidence. Although these studies seem relatively straightforward in conception and analysis, measurement of the concentration of hormones and other biomarkers in pregnant subjects is influenced by plasma volume expansion (PVE). During pregnancy, the maternal plasma volume expands 45% on average to provide for the greater circulatory needs of the maternal organs. Consequently, serum protein and hormone concentrations are greatly altered when comparing the pregnant with nonpregnant state. Assessing PVE also is complicated by the vast individual variation in PVE, ranging from minimal to a 2-fold increase. We propose that PVE needs to be evaluated when comparing biomarker concentrations during pregnancy in two populations that may differ with respect to PVE. Small body size is associated with lower PVE compared with higher body size. Therefore, we hypothesize that variation in PVE will influence the interpretation of differences in biomarker concentrations across population groups with respect to the etiologic significance of the biomarker to the disease under study (e.g., breast cancer). It is possible that some observations may be due only to differences in dilution between the two groups. We present PVE as a topic for consideration in population-based studies, examples of the types of studies where PVE may be relevant, and our own analysis of one such study in the text below. Copyright © 2007 American Association for Cancer Research.




Faupel-Badger, J. M., Hsieh, C. C., Troisi, R., Lagiou, P., & Potischman, N. (2007, September 1). Plasma volume expansion in pregnancy: Implications for biomarkers in population studies. Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention.

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