Reducing the Risk of Breast Cancer Recurrence with Breast-feeding

By: Kristine Alarcon

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A recent study at Kaiser Permanente in Northern California found that women who breast-fed had a 30% lower risk of breast cancer relapse after treatment and had less aggressive tumor types compared to women who did not breast feed.

The study, conducted led by Kaiser’s Division of Research scientist Marilyn Kwan, focused on what a breast cancer diagnosis would look like if a mother breast-fed early and looked at chances of breast cancer relapse.

The researchers found that there were better prognoses when a mother breast-fed, which associated with a 37% decreased risk of recurring breast cancer after treatment. However, there were even better results if the mother breast-fed for six months or longer, which was associated with a 39% decreased risk of recurrence. The study also found that 80% of women that were diagnosed with luminal A breast cancer had positive responses to hormone therapy and treatments and had less aggressive tumors.

Further research as to why this happens still needs to be conducted, but scientists believe that mature ductal cells and lower estrogen levels are the cause.

As a mother breast-feeds, the ductal cells that can produce milk mature. This could help the breast be more resistant to cancer-causing substances.

In addition, estrogen is known to be a hormone that can stimulate increased cell growth in the breast that can cause cancer. The estrogen levels in breast-feeding women are lower because they do not have their regular menstrual cycle.

Kristine Alarcon is a senior at the University of San Francisco working towards a Bachelors of Science in Biology. She is a Social Media Assistant at Cancer InCytes Magazine.

Reference:

Colliver, Victoria. “Breast-feeding cuts moms’ risk of breast cancer, study shows” SF Gate. Retrieved on May 3, 2015. http://www.sfgate.com/health/article/Large-study-shows-breastfeeding-benefits-cancer-6229422.php#photo-7890922

Photo Credit: (Osborne, Amy) The San Francisco Chronicle. http://www.sfgate.com/health/article/Large-study-shows-breastfeeding-benefits-cancer-6229422.php#photo-7890922

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