Breastfeeding has been known to be a factor in reducing a mother’s chances of developing breast cancer, but a recent Spanish study determined that moms who breastfeed for at least six months and do not smoke can delay its onset for 10 years.
Delayed onset of cancer
Researchers from the University of Granada, located in Spain, studied data from 504 female breast cancer patients from the ages of 19 to 91. They discovered that women who had breastfed for at least six months had an average age at diagnosis of 68.4, compared to women who either didn’t breastfeed or only did so for three months, whose average age at diagnosis was 58.
"Breastfeeding for periods of over six months not only provides children with numerous health benefits, but also protects the mother from serious diseases such as breast cancer," said the research, led by Emilio González-Jiminéz. The study also said that moms reduce their chances of breast cancer by 4.3 percent for each year that they breastfeed.
However, if a woman was a smoker, the data revealed that there was no difference in the onset of breast cancer no matter how long she breastfed her children.
I had heaps of trouble trying to find out the overall rates of breastfeeding in Spain, but one chart I found (PDF here) had Spain’s “ever breastfed” rates at around 75 percent in 2005, slightly above the U.K. and the U.S. By 6 months, that had dropped off to 20 percent. As this data is 8 years old, I am not sure if the breastfeeding situation in Spain has improved like it has in the U.S. -- for example, in 2000, 35 percent of moms were nursing at the six-month mark, and in 2010, it rose to 50 percent.
Overall, the authors of the study said that breast cancer rates could be reduced from over six percent to under three percent if more women breastfed for at least six months.