New research strongly suggests that breastfeeding can help protect women with a family history of breast cancer from developing the cancer, Reuters reports. Scientists found that among women who had a mother or sister with the disease, those who breastfed were nearly 60% less likely to develop the cancer before menopause than those who didn't. The risk reduction compares favorably to the use of hormone therapy to prevent breast cancer, researchers say.
Women who had never breastfed but who used drugs to suppress milk production after childbirth also had a lower cancer risk, suggesting that something in the breast goes wrong when milk is unused. The researchers say their findings suggest that women be strongly encouraged to breastfeed. "That's why we need supportive hospital policies, paid maternity leave, and workplace accommodations so that women can meet their breastfeeding goals," said the lead researcher.