Mothers who breastfeed for a year over the course of their lifetime are almost 5% less likely to develop breast cancer, an expert said today.
Analysis by Dr Rachel Thompson, science programme manager for World Cancer Research Fund, showed breastfeeding for a year reduced a woman’s cancer risk by 4.8%.
Breastfeeding has been linked to lower obesity levels in children and is known to confer immunity to the newborn against a clutch of infections, including respiratory diseases.
However, a recent survey for the WCRF found that only one in four women in the UK knew breastfeeding cut the chance of them developing breast cancer.
Breastfeeding has been found to lower the levels of some cancer-related hormones in the mother’s body, reducing the risk of the disease.
At the end of breastfeeding, the body was also found to rid itself of any cells in the breast that may have DNA damage. This reduces the risk of breast cancer developing in the future.
Dr Thompson said: "We want to get across the message that breastfeeding is something positive that women can do to reduce their risk of breast cancer.
"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.
"Reducing your breast cancer risk by about 5% might not sound like a big difference but the longer you breastfeed for, the more you will reduce your risk."