Breastfeeding may reduce aggressive breast cancer risk

New York: Women who breastfeed may have up to 20 percent reduced risk of developing an aggressive form of breast cancer called hormone-receptor negative, says a new study.

More commonly diagnosed in women under age 50, hormone-receptor-negative (HRN) breast cancers are more likely to be aggressive and life-threatening.

HRN breast cancer are more often deadly because they tend to be diagnosed at later stages, respond to fewer treatment options, and are less likely to be cured by current therapies.

“Breastfeeding is a relatively accessible, low-cost, short-term strategy that yields long-lasting natural protection,” said one of the researchers Marisa Weiss from Lankenau Medical Center in Pennsylvania, US.

This analysis of 27 distinct studies involved a total of 36,881 breast cancer cases.

“This meta-analysis showed a protective effect of ever breastfeeding against hormone receptor-negative breast cancers, which are more common in younger women and generally have a poorer prognosis than other subtypes of breast cancer,” the study said.

“Further evidence to support the long-term protection of breastfeeding against the most aggressive subtypes of breast cancer is very encouraging and actionable,” Weiss pointed out.

This work highlights the need for more public health strategies that directly inform women and girls about the maternal (and fetal) benefits of breastfeeding before and during a woman’s child-bearing years.

It is also important for these women to have the message reinforced by their healthcare professionals, the researchers said.

The findings suggest that it is critical to remove the barriers to breastfeeding at home, in the community and in the workplace.

The study was published in the journal Annals of Oncology.