Breast-feeding for more than six months may protect nonsmoking mothers against breast cancer, according to a relatively small Spanish study.
The same association did not seem to hold true in smoking mothers, researchers reported Aug. 13 on the website of the Journal of Clinical Nursing. They said the findings add to the list of benefits of breast-feeding for women and their babies.
To look at the relationship between breast cancer and certain aspects of pregnancy and breast-feeding, Emilio González-Jiménez, PhD, of the University of Granada in Spain, and his colleagues analyzed the medical records of 504 female patients ages 19 to 91 who had been diagnosed and treated for breast cancer from 2004 to 2009 at the San Cecilio University Hospital in Granada. The team looked at factors that included age of diagnosis, duration of breast-feeding, family history of cancer, obesity, alcohol consumption and smoking habits.
Their analysis revealed that women who underwent childbirth and who breast-fed were diagnosed with breast cancer at a later age, regardless of the patients family history of cancer. Nonsmokers who breast-fed for periods of longer than six months tended to be diagnosed with breast cancer an average of 10 years later than nonsmokers who breast-fed for a shorter period.
In contrast, female smokers were diagnosed with breast cancer at a younger age and obtained no significant benefit from a longer period of breast-feeding.
Although the study does not demonstrate cause and effect, “the results suggest that for nonsmokers, breast-feeding for more than six months not only provides children with numerous health benefits, but it also may protect mothers from breast cancer,” Gonzalez-Jimenez said.
The researchers stated that “nurses play a crucial role in encouraging new mothers to breast-feed their children, and this helps to prevent breast cancer.”
Study abstract: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jocn.12368/abstract.