Breastfeeding has been shown to stimulate a baby’s immature immune system and lower the risk of developing asthma or allergies. Breastfeeding saves lives. If every baby were exclusively breastfed from birth to up to six months of age, approximately 1.5 million lives would be saved each year. Breastfeeding possesses all the nutrients babies need for good health and growth. It helps the baby recognize its mother and helps the mother overcome the immediate emotional aftermath of childbirth.

A new study by Kaiser Permanente et al. published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, shows that mothers can also benefit from breastfeeding by decreasing the risk of breast cancer recurrence.

The research team studied 1,636 women with breast cancer who completed a questionnaire that included breastfeeding history. They found out that breastfeeding not only decreased the risk of breast cancer recurrence, but women who breastfed had a 28 percent reduced risk of dying from breast cancer.

“If a woman breastfeeds, she reduces her risk of developing breast cancer, by about five percent to ten percent, although other factors come into play,” said Marilyn L. Kwan PhD research scientist.

More specifically, researchers showed that breastfeeding benefited women who were diagnosed with the luminal A subtype of breast cancer, while no significant associations were observed for those with other subtypes. Luminal A tumors include the estrogen-receptor positive (or ER+) breast tumors, which are the most commonly diagnosed of all breast cancers. These tumors are less likely to metastasize and are treatable with hormonal therapy.

"Breastfeeding may increase the maturation of ductal cells in the breast, making them less susceptible to carcinogens or facilitate the excretion of carcinogens, and lead to slower growing tumors," explained Bette J. Caan, a senior research scientist.

“The message has been getting out about the value to babies of breastfeeding. It really needs to get out about the value to the mom,” said Dr. Susan Kutner.




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