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15 August 2013
Long-term breastfeeding appears to protect against breast cancer

A new analysis published in the Journal of Clinical Nursing suggests that breastfeeding for more than six months may safeguard non-smoking mothers against breast cancer. The findings add to the list of benefits of breastfeeding for women and their babies, but the researchers stress that the benefits aren't there for smoking moms.

To examine the relationship between breast cancer, pregnancy, and breastfeeding, University of Granada researcher Emilio González-Jiménez analyzed the medical records of female patients who were between 19 and 91 years of age and treated for breast cancer. His research team looked at factors including age of diagnosis, how long the women breastfed, family history of cancer, obesity, alcohol consumption, and smoking habits.

The analysis revealed that women who underwent childbirth and who breastfed were diagnosed with breast cancer at a later age - regardless of the patients' family history of cancer. Non-smokers who breastfed for periods of longer than six months tended to be diagnosed with breast cancer much later in life - an average of 10 years later than non-smokers who breastfed for a shorter period. In contrast, female smokers were diagnosed with breast cancer at a younger age and obtained no significant benefit from a longer period of breastfeeding.

"The results suggest that for non-smokers, breastfeeding for more than six months not only provides children with numerous health benefits, but it also may protect mothers from breast cancer," concluded González-Jiménez.

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Source: Journal of Clinical Nursing

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