(NaturalNews) What if medical science discovered a drug that reduced the risk of breast cancer almost 60 percent in women who are at high risk because of a family history of the disease? No doubt it would soon be making Big Pharma billions of dollars and would be hailed as a "miracle drug" by doctors and women alike, even if it came loaded with side effects, as most medications do. Now consider this: a new study just published in the Archives of Internal Medicine has documented something that makes women with a family history of breast cancer 59 percent less likely to develop a breast malignancy themselves. The "new" and groundbreaking discovery is actually as old as humankind and totally natural -- it's breastfeeding.
"This is good news for women with a family history of breast cancer," Dr. Alison Stuebe, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine and lead author of the study, said in a media statement. "Our results suggest a woman can lower her risk of cancer simply by breastfeeding her children."
The authors didn't find this dramatic difference in risk among women who didn't have a family history of breast cancer. "This could be because there's something about genetically caused breast cancer that's affected by breastfeeding, or it could be because rates of breast cancer were so low in women without a family history that we couldn't see an association in this data set," Dr. Stuebe explained.
Among women with a strong family history of breast cancer whose mothers and/or sisters had developed the disease, the scientists found that those who breastfed their babies were less than half as likely to develop premenopausal breast cancer as those who had not nursed their offspring. For women with a family history, the enormously lowered risk with breastfeeding was similar to taking an anti-estrogen drug such as Tamoxifen for five years. Tamoxifen is a selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERM) that blocks the effects of estrogen in the breast tissue cells and can cause a host of side effects including dizziness, mood swings, leg swelling, difficulty seeing and heart attack-causing blood clots.
Just how long a woman nurses appears to be less critical than the fact she breastfeeds at all. The reduction in breast cancer risk was similar whether women breastfed for a total of three months or for more than three years. There was also no significant difference in risk for the women who exclusively breastfed compared to moms who breastfed but also supplemented with other foods.
So why does breastfeeding reduce the risk of breast cancer in high risk women? The authors of the study stated the explanation is still unknown, but they suspect that when women do not breastfeed, inflammation and engorgement shortly after birth produce changes in breast tissue that may up the odds of breast cancer.
Unfortunately, according to a recent CDC study, more than half of women said they stopped breastfeeding earlier than they wanted to. "Mothers and babies need supportive hospital policies, paid maternity leave, and workplace accommodations so that they can meet their breastfeeding goals," Dr. Stuebe stated in the media release. "Public health begins with breastfeeding."