The Effect of Breastfeeding on Breast Cancer Recurrence

The Effect of Breastfeeding on Breast Cancer Recurrence

Breastfeeding has been linked to a reduced risk for breast cancer, but a new study suggests breastfeeding could reduce the risk of breast cancer recurrence.

The study, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, followed more than 1,600 breast cancer survivors. Researchers found that mothers who breastfed had a 30 percent reduced risk of breast cancer recurrence, and mothers who breastfed for more than six months were 37 percent less likely to experience breast cancer recurrence. 

Risk reductions were more apparent in estrogen-receptor-positive cancers. Most women who breastfeed experience hormonal changes during lactation that delay the return of menstruation. These changes reduce a woman’s lifetime exposure to hormones such as estrogen that can promote breast cancer cell growth.

Breastfeeding also triggers molecular changes and the shedding of breast tissue, which may help remove cells with potential DNA damage, thus reducing the mother’s risk of developing breast cancer.

Evidence shows that the health benefits of breastfeeding, including reduced breast cancer risk, become more significant after breastfeeding for six months or more. One study found that for every 12 months a woman breastfed during the course of her lifetime, her risk of breast cancer decreased by 4.3 percent. 

Breastfeeding has many health benefits, but it isn’t always easy. If you are considering breastfeeding or are having trouble breastfeeding, seek help from a lactation consultant or professional breastfeeding counselor.

Learn more about cancer care at Goshen Health, or contact our oncology information specialists at 888-492-HOPE (4673).


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