Breastfeeding reduces a woman’s risk of dying from breast cancer by more than a quarter, according to a study. It was also found to cut the likelihood of the disease coming back by 30 per cent.
Scientists believe that the protective effect is caused by a reduction in the levels of the hormone oestrogen, which is known to trigger cancer.
But although they have long known that breastfeeding prevents breast cancer, this is the first study to show the extent to which it prevents tumours growing back. The UK has one of the worst breastfeeding rates in Europe and just 1 in 100 women do it exclusively for the recommended six months, without using formula milk.
US researchers studied 1,636 women with breast cancer who had completed a questionnaire which included whether they had breastfed in the past. When they analysed the results, they found that breastfeeding protected against the most common genetic type of breast cancer – luminal subtype A – but not the rarer forms.