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Study: Breastfeeding Reduces Cancer Risk

August 10, 2009, 5:06 PM by Kelli Grant

Study: Breastfeeding Reduces Cancer Risk
For new moms with a family history of breast cancer, a new study shows there's one way they can reduce their risk. Many moms choose to breast feed to benefit their child's health but a new study says it could also improve the health of the mother.

Thirty-three-year-old Rachel Roper is five-and-a-half months pregnant and wants to make sure she's around for her unborn baby girl.

"I have a strong family history.  My mom passed away at 42 from breast cancer," Roper said. 

Now a new study shows that women with a family history can reduce their risk of getting breast cancer before menopause if they breast feed.

"If they had ever breast fed, their risk was 59 percent lower of developing breast cancer than if they had never breastfed their children," Dr. Alison Stuebe, the author of the study, said.

Also, there was no major decrease in risk for women who only breastfed versus women who supplemented breast milk with formula and other food.

"There is something specific about the biology of developing breast cancer when you have a genetic predisposition that is affected by breast feeding," Stuebe said.

Cancer experts say breastfeeding would be a great preventative step for any new mom.

"It's something active that they can do even when they are young to potentially modify their risk of developing breast cancer," Dr. Freya Schnabel, Director of Breast Surgery at NYU Langone Medical Center, said.

Roper is seeing a breast surgery specialist to explore her options for keeping cancer at bay. She says nursing her child is now a no brainer.

"I'm really excited. This is all I wanted to do was breast feed my child," Roper said. 

Doctors say it's a healthy decision for both mother and baby.

The massive study followed 60,000 mothers for eight years. And it found the length of time a women breastfed did not matter.

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