The Breast Way to Prevent Breast Cancer

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Breast cancer risks lower in nonsmokers who breastfed for more than six months

August 14, 2013 / Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D Beth Bolt, RPh

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(dailyRx News) Breast or bottle? That’s one of the most important decisions a new mom makes — for herself and her baby. While there are pros and cons of both ways to nourish a baby, the breastfeeding side got a big boost today.

A new study found that women who breastfed their baby for six months or longer had lower risks of developing breast cancer later in life.

This protection was seen only in women who didn't smoke.

"Ask your doctor about the benefits breastfeeding can offer you and your baby."

Emilio González-Jiménez, PhD, of the University of Granada in Spain, and colleagues looked at the medical records of 504 women between the ages of 19 and 91 who had been diagnosed with breast cancer between 2004 and 2009.

In the background information of this study, the authors noted that a number of studies had been conducted to determine the influence breastfeeding has on breast cancer development. The results of those studies have been unclear.

In this study, the researchers looked at a number of things, including age at the time of breast cancer diagnosis, and various risks factors including family history of cancer, alcohol intake, smoking, obesity and duration of breastfeeding (lactation period).

The research team found that women who had given birth and breastfed were often diagnosed at a later age. This was seen regardless of the woman’s family cancer history.

“Nonsmokers who breastfed for periods of longer than six months tended to be diagnosed with breast cancer much later in life — an average of 10 years later than nonsmokers who breastfed for a shorter period,” the authors wrote.

Women who smoked, the study found, didn’t benefit from breastfeeding and received a breast cancer diagnosis at a younger age than nonsmokers who breastfed.

Andre Hall, MD, an OB/GYN at Birth and Women's Care in Fayetteville, North Carolina, told dailyRx News, “Breastfeeding has long been known to provide numerous benefits for babies, most importantly the transfer of immunological [body’s way of fighting off invaders] properties from the mother, which protects babies from infections they would otherwise be unable to guard against. In addition, breastfeeding is a time during which the bond between mother and child is strengthened.

“This recent retrospective analysis proposes that there may be additional benefits specific to the mother by decreasing her risk of breast cancer if she breastfeeds for longer than six months and is a nonsmoker,” said Dr. Hall, who was not involved in this study.

“Additional studies," Dr. Hall continued, "preferably of a prospective nature, will need to be done to further verify these findings. However, if substantiated, this would be yet another in a long list of benefits of breastfeeding to both mother and child and further supports the need for medical providers to encourage this activity wherever appropriate.”

This study was published August 14 in the Journal of Clinical Nursing.

No outside funding or conflicts of interest were reported.