Breastfeeding Reduces Ovarian Cancer Risk

Some years ago I had received a letter from a nursing mother who gave her reason for ecological breastfeeding: to avoid ovarian cancer.  She named several older female relatives in her family who had had ovarian cancer.

A recent study of 24,000 women, reported in the JAMA Oncology journal (April 2020), supports the benefit of breastfeeding to reduce the risk of getting this disease.  Here are the results of that ovarian cancer study:

Breastfeeding is associated with a significant decrease in the risk of ovarian cancer, including its most lethal type.  Women who breastfed overall reduced their risk of developing this disease by an average of 24%, but protection increased with longer duration of breastfeeding.

A breastfeeding duration of 1-3 months was associated with a 18% lower risk.

A breastfeeding duration of 12 or more months was associated with a 34% lower risk.  This benefit lasted for 30 years after the breastfeeding had ceased!!

If a woman gets this disease, she has only about a 45% chance of surviving at least 5 years after her diagnosis.

In this study titled “Association between breastfeeding and ovarian cancer risk,” the researchers try to explain why breastfeeding reduces ovarian cancer risk, but they cannot do so with certainty.  The practical bottom line: There is no doubt that breastfeeding gives good but not absolute protection against ovarian cancer.  I am happy  that we emphasize Ecological Breastfeeding in the NFPI teaching program.

Sheila Kippley
The Seven Standards of Ecological Breastfeeding


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