Breast cancer risk reduced by 50 percent by breastfeeding for two or more years

New Haven, Conn. Breastfeeding for two or more years reduces a womans risk of developing breast cancer by 50 percent, according to a study conducted by a Yale researcher among women in China.

The researcher, Tongzhang Zheng, associate professor of epidemiology and public health at Yale School of Medicine, said he conducted the study in China because, unlike Western nations, long term breastfeeding is part of the Chinese culture.

"In Chinese society, it is socially acceptable to breastfeed for a long time," said Zheng. "And it is considered good for the child."

His research, published recently in the American Journal of Epidemiology, followed three studies conducted in the early 1980s in Shanghai, Beijing and Tianjin, China. The earlier studies found a more than 50 percent reduction in breast cancer among women who reported a lifetime breastfeeding of more than 109 months compared to women who never breastfed.

A limitation of that first study was that it only reported lifetime duration of lactation and breast cancer risk for all women. Recent studies from Western populations suggest that the effect of breastfeeding may be limited to pre-menopausal women and may be affected by other factors such as the number of children breastfed and the age at first breastfeeding.

In 1997-1999, Zhengs group conducted a study in four large hospitals and several smaller hospitals in the Shandong Province of China to investigate the relationship between lactation and breast cancer risk.

This study, unlike the earlier studies, included detailed information on menstrual and reproductive factors, number of children breastfed, mean duration for each child breastfed, lifetime duration of breastfeeding, and age at first breastfeeding. A total of 404 female breast cancer cases were identified from the participating hospitals and all of the patients involved participated in the study.

"I should emphasize that this is a crucial time t

Contact: Jacqueline Weaver
Yale University

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