Health Workshop | 2 May 2015 12:07 CET

Breast feed more, risk breast cancer less

By Vanguard/Sola Ogundipe

It's no secret that breastfeeding benefits babies. There is huge evidence that breastfeeding helps improve healthier immune systems and fewer breathing difficulties. Breastfeeding is also protects the mothers' health. The longer the duration of breastfeeding, the lower the chances of developing breast cancer. Most women who breastfeed their babies and stop after several months, or breastfeed less frequently as they start to supplement with formula and baby food may not be as protected.

Studies that have found that breastfeeding lowers breast cancer risk have also found that protection builds up over time (that is, duration of breastfeeding) and number of children that are breastfed. Women who have many children and breastfeed each baby for a long time seem to be at somewhat lower risk of breast cancer than women who have smaller families and breastfeed for a shorter time.

Women who breast-feed their babies and later develop breast cancer are less likely to have the cancer return or to die from it than women who do not breast-feed, new research shows. They are more likely to get the luminal A subtype of breast cancer, which is less aggressive, and breastfeeding may set up a molecular environment that makes the tumor more responsive to anti-oestrogen therapy. The protective association was seen with any prior length of breastfeeding, though six months or more led to a slightly larger benefit.

The study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, found that in over 1,600 women with breast cancer, those who previously breast-fed had a 30 percent overall decreased risk of their breast cancer recurring. It was also found that those who previously breast-fed had a 28 percent reduced risk of dying from their breast cancer.

If a woman breast-feeds, she reduces her risk of developing breast cancer by about 5 percent to 10 percent, although other factors come into play, such as the number of children she has had. It is one of the first studies to examine the role of breast-feeding and breast cancer outcomes— prognosis and survival. Overall, breast feeding is not only good for the baby. But has potential health benefits for the mother.

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