Does breastfeeding increase or decrease breast cancer risks?
It has long been believed that breastfeeding beyond a year reduces the risk of breast cancer in women. Just last year the New York Times reported:
There is new evidence that breast-feeding is associated with a lower incidence of breast cancer among a group of younger women who are at particularly high risk: those with breast cancer in the family…
Though breast-feeding is promoted primarily because it is linked to better health in babies, mothers seem to accrue long-term advantages. Studies have found that women who breast-fed are less likely to develop osteoporosis and ovarian cancer , as well as high blood pressure and heart disease decades later.
The American Cancer Society agrees, “Some studies have shown that breast-feeding slightly lowers breast cancer risk, especially if the breast-feeding lasts 1½ to 2 years. This could be because breast-feeding lowers a woman’s total number of menstrual periods, as does pregnancy.”
Shockingly, a new study contradicts these previous studies. Press TV explains:
Latest figures have revealed that women diagnosed with breast cancer after completing a pregnancy are 48 percent more likely to die compared with other women suffering from the disease.
Previous studies had suggested that breastfeeding lowers the risk of breast malignancies particularly in high-risk women who have a positive family history for the disease.
According to the study presented at the seventh European Breast Cancer Conference (EBCC7) in Barcelona, women who breastfed their newborns for more than six months are two times more likely to have grade III breast tumors.
I have a hard time accepting this new study, when multiple previous studies contradict the results. Breastfeeding is hardly to blame, especially when the biggest message coming out of EBCC7 is that 1/3 of all breast cancers could be eliminated “if women ate less and exercised more”. As lead researcher of the breastfeeding study Angela Ives cautions, “It is important to stress that our findings should not discourage women from breast feeding as we know that this is beneficial to both mother and baby in a number of ways.”