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Breastfeeding May Reduce Risk of Aggressive Breast Cancer, Study Finds

Researchers call for removing obstacles to breastfeeding in home, community, and workplace

Breastfeeding can reduce the risk for an aggressive form of breast cancer for women, say researchers, who suggest that obstacles to breastfeeding in the home and the workplace should be removed.

According to HealthDay, a new study finds a link between breastfeeding and a woman's reduced risk for an aggressive form of breast cancer called hormone-receptor-negative breast cancer. This type of cancer accounts for about 20% of breast cancer cases in the United States and is more common among women younger than 50, black women, and women with the BRCA1 gene mutation, the researchers said.

The large international study found that women who breastfed were up to 20% less likely to develop hormone-receptor-negative breast cancer than those who did not breastfeed. Researchers observed an association but did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship. The findings were published October 26 in the journal Annals of Oncology.

"Further evidence to support the long-term protection of breastfeeding against the most aggressive subtypes of breast cancer is very encouraging and actionable," said study co-author Dr. Marisa Weiss in an American Cancer Society news release. Weiss is president and founder of and director of breast health outreach at Lankenau Medical Center in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania. "Breastfeeding is a relatively accessible, low-cost, short-term strategy that yields long-lasting natural protection."

The findings show the need for more public health programs that directly inform women about the benefits of breastfeeding, and for removal of obstacles to breastfeeding in the home, community, and workplace, the researchers said.

Dr. Paolo Boffetta is associate director for population sciences at the Tisch Cancer Institute at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City. "Pregnant women and young mothers are highly receptive and motivated to make healthy choices,” Boffetta said. “We need to encourage women who are able to breastfeed to do so for their breast health, in addition to the health of their children."

Further research is needed to learn more about how breastfeeding reduces the risk of hormone-receptor-negative breast cancer and its effect on other types of breast cancer, Boffetta added.

Source: HealthDay, October 27, 2015.

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