Study: Breast Feeding May Lower Risk of Breast Cancer Recurrence

Breast FeedingMany studies have shown that breast-feeding is linked to reduced risk of breast cancer. A new study suggests that breast-feeding could have additional benefits, providing evidence to show that women who breast-feed and later have cancer are at a lower risk of the cancer coming back or recurring. The study was published in the April 28 issue of The Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

The researchers followed 1,636 breast cancer survivors and examined medical records to know whether the women had ever breast-fed their children. During the nine years of follow-up, breast cancer recurred in 383 women while 290 died from breast cancer. It was found that (compared to women who never breast-fed):

  • Women who previously breast-fed had a 30 percent overall decreased risk of their breast cancer recurring
  • Those who previously breast-fed had a 28 percent reduced risk of dying from their breast cancer
  • A woman who breast-feeds lowers her risk of developing breast cancer by about 5 percent to 10 percent, although there are other factors involved such as the number of children she has had
  • The benefits were slightly higher for women who breastfed for 6 months or longer

Explaining the finding that breastfeeding may be associated with a better prognosis if a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer, the lead researcher said that breastfeeding may produce a molecular environment that makes the tumor more receptive to hormonal therapy. So, women who breastfeed may develop only a less aggressive type of breast cancer.

Breast-feeding itself lowers cancer risks, especially in women who do so for more than a year, says another report on this new study. The reasons why this happens are

  • Making milk limits breast cells’ ability to operate abnormally
  • Most women who breast-feed have fewer menstrual cycles during feeding, which means lower estrogen levels
  • They tend to have a nutritious diet and lead a healthier lifestyle when they are feeding their child

Both UNICEF and the American Academy of Pediatrics encourage breastfeeding. Breast milk helps the baby to fight off infections and become immune naturally. Breast-feeding is a personal choice, but considering the benefits that it offers both the mother and child, you could easily say it’s the right choice.