Ovarian cancer accounts for about 4 percent of all cancers in women. It’s also the seventh most common cause of death by cancer in women. In fact, only about 45 percent of all women diagnosed live to see their fifth year of survival. This is largely due to the fact that, once symptoms arise, the cancer has already advanced to untreatable stages.
“As it is difficult to diagnose, treat and often has a poor prognosis, research into prevention strategies is essential to the health and well being of women all over the world,” Professor Colin Binns of Curtin University said in a statement to Medical Daily.
A better prevention strategy was exactly what Binns and his team of researchers had in mind when they conducted a study on ovarian cancer rates among breastfeeding women in China.
While previous research has indicated that ovarian cancer risks are lower in women that breastfeed, Binn and his team wondered if breastfeeding for longer periods of time would further decrease the risk. After gathering information on 493 incident ovarian cancer patients and 472 healthy participants from China’s Guangzhou province, researchers found that their theory was correct. In fact, their study results prompted a recommendation that mothers breastfeed their babies for at least 12 months to decrease their risk of ovarian cancer.
“We were able to effectively demonstrate that breastfeeding for 20 months would decrease the risk of ovarian cancer by 50 percent, and that the 20 months of breastfeeding could be spread over a number of children and still have the same effect,” the researchers said in their study.
According to the authors on this study, cell mutations are increased by increased ovulation. However, because breastfeeding actually delays ovulation, it reduces the risk of developing ovarian cancer. Researchers also shared that there was a particular reason for using women from China from their study.
“The lower incidence of ovarian cancer in China suggests there are factors operating there to reduce the incidence which we wanted to explore. We also knew that Chinese women breastfeed for longer than women in the western world, so it was an ideal location,” Binn said. “The results of our study add further knowledge to the relatively limited amount of research from countries, such as China, with a low incidence of this disease and provides more details on the breastfeeding variables associated with reduced risk of ovarian cancer.”
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