Breastfeeding for a year over the course
of a woman's life helps cut the risk of breast cancer, research
The World Cancer Research Fund analysed 7,000 previous studies
and found it reduced the risk by 4.8%.
Women have a one in nine chance of getting breast cancer
in their lifetime, meaning that the overall reduction in risk
is just above 0.5%.
Researchers said it was important that women realised the
positive effect of breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding has been linked to lower obesity levels in
children and is known to confer immunity to the newborn against
a clutch of infections, including respiratory diseases.
However, a recent survey found that only one in four women
in the UK knew breastfeeding cut the chance of them developing
Over three quarters of mothers initiate breastfeeding, but
of this, only 22% are still breastfeeding at six months.
Breastfeeding has been found to lower the levels of some
cancer-related hormones in the mother's body, reducing the
risk of the disease.
At the end of breastfeeding, the body has also been found
to rid itself of any cells in the breast that may have DNA
damage. This reduces the risk of breast cancer developing
in the future.
Lead researcher Dr Rachel 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."
Dr Lesley Walker, Cancer Research UK's director of information,
said: "Aside from family history, age, a previous breast cancer
and certain benign breast conditions, we know that the major
things that affect a woman's risk of breast cancer include
how early and how many children she has, how early she starts
her periods and how late the menopause begins, and whether
or not she chooses to breastfeed."