Breastfeeding May Reduce Risk of Certain Types of Breast Cancer

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African-American women can lower their risk of developing dangerous subtypes of breast cancer by breastfeeding.

A new study by researchers at Boston University's Slone Epidemiology Center found that African-American women who have had children but never breastfed are at an increased risk of developing estrogen receptor-negative and triple-negative breast cancer. 

Estrogen receptor-negative breast cancer means that cells in the breast tissue do not have a protein for the hormone to bond with. It's also more difficult to treat with hormones because the cancer continues to grow even when the estrogen is blocked from binding. In triple-negative breast cancer, there is a lack of three receptors that help the cancer grow.

"Breast cancer mortality is disproportionately high in African-American women of all ages, in part due to the higher incidence of estrogen receptor-negative breast cancer, with fewer targets for treatment," Julie Palmer, professor at the Slone Epidemiology Center, told Medical News Today. 

The study involved 3,690 African-American women with breast cancer. Of those, 1,252 had the estrogen receptor-negative subtype of breast cancer. The source stated that the women with children saw a 33 percent higher chance of developing estrogen receptor-negative breast cancer than women who did not have children.

Additionally, women who had four or more births but did not breastfeed had a 68 percent higher chance of developing estrogen receptor-negative breast cancer. 

Women who choose to breastfeed can potentially control their risk of developing these two subtypes of breast cancer.

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