Breast-feeding lowers cancer risk

Breast-feeding 'significantly cuts cancer risk'

Women who breast-feed are less likely to develop breast cancer, according to a new study.

Mothers who breast-feed for a year over their lifetime are almost 5% less likely to develop breast cancer.

Breast-feeding two babies for six months each or one baby for a year both have the same effect of cutting the risk of developing the disease, says Dr Rachel Thompson, science programme manager for the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF).

Previous studies have documented the positive effects of breast-feeding and this latest study is further proof of the health benefits. According to doctors, breast-feeding lowers the levels of some cancer-related hormones in the body.

Research has shown mothers who breast-feed beyond a child’s second birthday are half as likely of developing the disease than women who stop at twelve months.

Currently 45,000 cases of the disease are diagnosed in Britain each year, yet a recent study revealed three in four women were unaware that breast-feeding could reduce the chance of them developing the disease.

Ahead of October’s breast cancer awareness month, Dr Thompson encouraged mothers to breast-feed their babies for as long as possible, saying they could cut the risk of developing breast cancer by 4.8%.

‘We want to get across the message that breast-feeding is something positive that women can do to reduce their risk of breast cancer,’ she said.

‘Because the evidence that breast-feeding reduces breast cancer risk is convincing, we recommend women should breast-feed exclusively for six months and then continue with complementary feeding after that.’

Dr Thompson also highlighted the various other health benefits of breast-feeding, including developing a baby’s immune system, protecting against infections and allergies and reducing the likelihood of developing asthma and eczema.

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