Mothers who breastfeed for a year over their lifetime are almost 5% less likely to develop breast cancer, according to a new study.
Breastfeeding two babies for six months each or one baby for a year both have the same effect of cutting the risk of developing the disease, says Dr Rachel Thompson, science programme manager for the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF).
Research has shown mothers who breastfeed beyond a child’s second birthday are half as likely of developing the disease than women who stop at twelve months.
Currently 45,000 cases of the disease are diagnosed in Britain each year, yet a recent study revealed three in four women were unaware that breastfeeding could reduce the chance of them developing the disease.
Ahead of October’s breast cancer awareness month, Dr Thompson encouraged mothers to breastfeed their babies for as long as possible, saying they could cut the risk of developing breast cancer by 4.8%.
“We want to get across the message that breastfeeding is something positive that women can do to reduce their risk of breast cancer,” she said.
“Because the evidence that breastfeeding reduces breast cancer risk is convincing, we recommend women should breastfeed exclusively for six months and then continue with complementary feeding after that.”
Dr Thompson also highlighted the various other health benefits of breastfeeding, including developing a baby’s immune system, protecting against infections and allergies and reducing the likelihood of developing asthma and eczema.