Mothers who breastfeed their babies for a total of a year, are almost five per cent less likely to develop breast cancer than women who do not breastfeed at all, a scientist has advised.
At the start of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Dr Rachel Thompson, Science Programme Manager for World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF), has said that breastfeeding for one year – two babies for six months each, for example – is enough to reduce a woman’s breast cancer risk by 4.8 per cent.
It also probably reduces the child’s risk of becoming overweight. This is important for cancer prevention because excess body fat in adulthood increases risk of six types of cancer, including breast and bowel cancer.
But despite convincing evidence that breastfeeding reduces breast cancer risk, a recent YouGov survey revealed that only a quarter of women in Britain are aware of it.
Dr Thompson said: “We want to get across the message that breastfeeding is something positive that women can do to reduce their risk of breast cancer.
“Because the evidence that breastfeeding reduces breast cancer risk is convincing, we recommend women should breastfeed exclusively for six months and then continue with complementary feeding after that.
“Reducing your breast cancer risk by about five per cent might not sound like a big difference but the longer you breastfeed for, the more you will be reducing your risk.
“So if a woman breastfeeds two or more children for a at least six months each, it is clear they can make a significant impact on their cancer risk, not to mention all the other benefits of breastfeeding.”
Source: World Cancer Research Fund, UK