Breastfeeding Reduces Your Cancer Risk — but Most People Don't Know

The decision to breastfeed is a personal one. Not everyone wants to. Not every person is able to. For instance, financial limitations may prevent a new mom from breastfeeding, as many have to return to work early. Medical conditions keep some from breastfeeding. However, breastfeeding offers innumerable health benefits, one of which is a lowered risk of cancer. Yet most people don’t know this.

In fact, according to a new study, few people are given this information by their health care provider. But why does this happen?

The study, conducted by The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center: Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute and published in Breastfeeding Medicine, followed 763 new moms. While the vast majority of the participants in the study did breastfeed (724, to be exact), only 16 percent were informed about the cancer risk-reducing benefits of breastfeeding by their doctor.

According to Dr. Bhuvana Ramaswamy, principal investigator of the study and breast medical oncology division director at the OSUCCC, this is a problem. A huge problem.

“Prevention is the best weapon we have to fight cancer,” Ramaswamy said in a statement. “Not every mother is able to breastfeed, but they should all have the information they need to make the best decision for themselves and their babies.”

Of course, one may wonder if having this information would make any difference. However, 36.4 percent of those who knew about the cancer risk-reducing benefits of breastfeeding said this knowledge directly affected their decision to breastfeed. What’s more, of the 39 who did not breastfeed, 23 women (59 percent) responded that awareness would have influenced their decision. 

“We have a duty as a medical community to ensure our patients have reliable knowledge,” Ramaswamy said. “And when it comes from a professional, medical information is much more likely to affect people’s choices.”

While not all women can or should breastfeed, which is perfectly normal, if a person has the chance to breastfeed, this study offers yet another reason to do so, even if only for a short period of time.

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