Breastfeeding 'reduces the risks of dying from cancer'
Women with breast cancer who breastfed their babies are significantly less at risk of the disease recurring or killing them, a study has found.
Overall a history of breastfeeding reduced the chances of cancer returning after treatment by 30pc, while the risk of dying was lowered by 28pc.
Researchers analysed data on 1,636 women with breast cancer who completed a questionnaire about breastfeeding.
They discovered that breastfeeding had a clear protective effect, especially in relation to particular types of tumour.
Lead researcher Dr Marilyn Kwan, from US health care provider Kaiser Permanente, said: "This is the first study we're aware of that examined the role of breastfeeding history in cancer recurrence, and by tumour subtype.
"Women who breastfeed are more likely to get the luminal A subtype of breast cancer, which is less aggressive, and breastfeeding may set up a molecular environment that makes the tumour more responsive to anti-oestrogen therapy."
The protection was strongest for women who had a history of breastfeeding for six months or longer.
Why women who breastfeed their babies develop less aggressive tumours is not entirely clear.
Co-author Dr Bette Caan said: "Breastfeeding may increase the maturation of ductal cells in the breast, making them less susceptible to carcinogens and lead to slower growing tumours."