Breastfeeding dramatically protects young women with inherited breast cancer genes from developing the disease, a study has found.
Researchers said mothers with a family history of breast cancer were 59% less likely to develop tumours before the menopause if they breastfed.
The effect is significant because women with the two most important breast cancer genes, BRCA-1 and BRCA-2, have a 50% to 80% chance of getting breast cancer in their lifetime. Inherited breast cancer is also much more likely to strike younger women.
An average woman aged 30 has a one in around 2,500 chance of developing breast cancer. But if the woman has one of the two BRCA genes the odds are one in three. The new US research suggests that a young mother can more than halve that risk simply by breastfeeding.
“This is good news for women with a family history of breast cancer,” said Dr Alison Stuebe from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill who led the study reported in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine.