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Women who breastfeed even for short amount of time may have lower risk of ovarian cancer

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New research has found that women who breastfeed could benefit from a 24 percent reduction in their risk of ovarian cancer.

Carried out by a team at QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute in Australia along with the Ovarian Cancer Association Consortium, the new research looked at data gathered from 13 studies around the world which had included a total of 9,973 women with ovarian cancer and 13,843 cancer-free women who acted as controls. 

The data included information on the women’s breastfeeding history, including how long they breastfed each of their children for, their age at their first and last breastfeeding and the number of years since they last breastfed.

The findings, published in the journal JAMA Oncology, showed that women who breastfeed their babies appeared to have a 24 percent lower risk of developing ovarian cancer compared to the women who hadn’t breastfed.

Read also: More breastfeeding could save the world $1 billion every day

In addition, the longer women breastfed the greater the reduction in risk, with women who breastfed for 12 or more months benefiting from a 34 percent lower risk of ovarian cancer. The shorter the time since a woman’s last breastfeeding episode was also associated with a bigger decrease in risk.

Senior Australian author of the study Professor Penelope Webb also pointed out that breastfeeding was associated with a lower risk of developing all ovarian cancers, including the most lethal type called high-grade serous tumors.

“Overall, the risk of developing ovarian cancer dropped by 24 percent for women who breastfed, and even those who breastfed their children for three months or less had about an 18 percent lower risk of developing ovarian cancer,” Professor Webb said.

“Importantly, this benefit of breastfeeding lasted for at least 30 years after a woman stopped breastfeeding.”

“Some past studies have linked breastfeeding to a reduced risk of ovarian cancer, but others found no association, so we wanted to look at this in a much bigger study to clarify the relationship,” continued Professor Webb. “The study results show a link between breastfeeding and reduced ovarian cancer rates, and reinforce the World Health Organization’s recommendations that mothers should exclusively breastfeed for at least six months if they can and continue doing so, with the addition of complementary foods, for two or more years.”

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