In 2011, an estimated 230,480 new cases of invasive breast cancer were expected to be diagnosed in women in the U.S. And while death rates have been decreasing since 1990 about 39,520 women in the U.S. were expected to die in 2011 from breast cancer.
The threat of breast cancer can be reduced drastically in women with a strong family history of the disease simply by breastfeeding for almost a year.
The researchers at the Women’s Research Institute in Ontario, Canada found that those women who carried faulty genes called BRCA1 had a three in four chance of contracting breast cancer. However one of the most natural ways to reduce these risks was to breastfeed their babies for at least a year.
Almost 6,000 women with the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes were included in the study, with around half having already been diagnosed with cancer. They were then paired by matching parameters like their age, number of births, body weight, etc. to 1665 pairs.
The researchers added that women who carried BRCA 1 genes had such an extremely high chance of developing cancer that they often opted for precautionary surgeries like a double mastectomy. But the chances of breast cancer were reduced to 32 percent if these women opted to breastfeed their babies. They calculated that of five women who had the BRCA 1 gene and who breastfeed for a year, it could prevent one from developing cancer.
However, the researchers also added that the same did not apply to women who had the BRCA 2 gene which could also lead to breast cancer.
Dr. Steven Narod, co-author wrote in the journal BioMed Central, “These findings corroborate a protective role of breastfeeding on breast cancer risk for BRCA1. The lack of an association for BRCA2 mutation carriers suggests that the biological pathway for carcinogenesis is different for the two genes. Women with a BRCA mutation should be advised of the benefit of breastfeeding in terms of reducing breast cancer risk.”
For women who do not carry any of these genes too breastfeeding seems to be a good choice as it reduces the chances of breast cancer by 4.3 percent.
Another important finding was that each year of breastfeeding reduced the risk of breast cancer by 19 percent.
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