Study: Breastfeeding May Delay Onset of Breast Cancer

A new but small study on breastfeeding and breast cancer adds to the evidence showing its protective effects for moms, with this study suggesting that breastfeeding may delay the onset of breast cancer for nonsmoking moms who breastfeed for at least six months.bigstock-Mother-breastfeeding-the-littl-18348869

The study was published online in the Journal of Clinical Nursing this week.

AICR’s continuous updates, which examine the global literature, found that breastfeeding directly reduces a mother’s risk of breast cancer; breastfeeding also may indirectly reduce the baby’s risk for cancer in later life, as it may play a role in being a healthy weight.

In this study, about 500 Spanish breast cancer survivors answered questions about breastfeeding, along with their family history, diet, and smoking habits. The women ranged in ages from 19 to 91; they had all been diagnosed and treated for their cancer from 2004 to 2009.

Regardless of family history, the nonsmoking women who breastfed their babies for over six months were diagnosed with breast cancer a decade later than the other women. Continue reading


Breastfeeding – Preventing Cancer and Early Death for Mom

iStock_000010494382XSmallBreastfeeding provides numerous benefits to babies, including preventing many illnesses. Often overlooked is the benefit moms get from breastfeeding their babies.

Now for the first time, a study published yesterday found that women who followed AICR’s recommendation for breastfeeding reduced their risk of premature death from all diseases.

The study, featured in Cancer Research Update, found that mothers who breastfed their babies for at least six months had a 17 percent reduced risk for early death compared to women who did not breastfeed at all. Even those who breastfed for a shorter duration had about a 13 percent lower risk for early death. Breastfeeding linked to lower risk for early death from both cancer and cardiovascular disease.

We’ve known, from AICR’s expert report and its updates, that lactation reduces breast cancer risk for mom, but this evidence shows it can also help prevent early death. Although the researchers in this study did not discuss why breastfeeding may lower death risk, we do have some ideas as to how it helps lower risk for breast cancer.

  1. The longer women breastfeed, the fewer menstrual cycles they have and therefore have reduced lifetime exposure to hormones, especially estrogen, that influence breast cancer risk.
  2. Breast tissue is shed during lactation and for mature cells, there’s programmed cell death. Both decrease cancer risk as cells with potential DNA damage are shed or die.

This is the first study to look at the association between breastfeeding and mortality in the mother. The researchers say more studies need to be done to confirm these findings.

Most moms do want to breastfeed their babies as long as they can, but it can be very challenging to maintain without support. Find help, tips and suggestions for successful breastfeeding at womenshealth.gov.