Medical experts have long extolled the benefits of breastfeeding for babies. A new study suggests that breastfeeding also has advantages for mothers as it may reduce the risk of breast cancer.
Researchers from Kaiser Permanente suggest that women with a history of breastfeeding have a 30 percent overall reduced risk of disease recurrence in comparison to women who have not breastfed.
The latest study included more than 1,600 women with breast cancer. The participants were asked to complete a questionnaire, which included questions about breastfeeding history. Medical data of all participants was also examined by the researchers.
Marilyn Kwan, a scientist at the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research and lead author of the research, revealed that the study is the first to examine the role of breastfeeding in cancer recurrence and also by the subtype of the tumor.
The study found noticeable advantages of breastfeeding among women who were diagnosed with the luminal A subtype of breast cancer. However, no significant link was found for women with other subtypes of breast cancer.
Luminal A subtype tumors include the estrogen-receptor positive (ER+) breast tumors that are the most generally diagnosed breast cancers. The tumors can be treated with some therapies like aromatase inhibitors and tamoxifen.
"Women who breastfeed 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-estrogen therapy," said Kwan.
The researchers also found that women who breastfed have a 28 percent reduced risk of dying from the disease. Scientists are not sure why women who breastfed in the past are likely to develop less aggressive tumors.
The study also found that women who breastfed for longer period of time were less likely to develop breast cancer. Many women prefer breastfeeding their children for over six months.
Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in American women. In 2011, more than 220,000 American women were diagnosed with breast cancer and nearly 41,000 women lost their lives to the disease in the same year.
The study is significant as it highlights the possible link between breastfeeding and breast cancer, which may encourage women to breastfeed to reduce the risk of the disease.
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