NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Breast-Feeding Benefits

July 19, 2002

As societies become more advanced, women breast-feed less and less. However, a new study in the medical journal Lancet argues that breast-feeding may significantly decrease the risk of breast cancer.

The study involved 200 researchers examining more than 47 studies that investigated a total of 150,000 women worldwide. The analysis of the pooled information was conducted by epidemiologists at Oxford University. The results of their analysis were striking.

  • The risk of breast cancer drop 7 percent for every additional child.
  • It drops by 4.3 percent for every year women breast-feed.
  • The risk also drops the earlier women have children.

The researchers argue that this data partially explains why breast cancer rates are higher in the developed world than the developing world:

  • Western women have a 6.3 percent chance of getting breast cancer, while women from the developing world have only a 2.7 percent chance.
  • Western women have on average two to three children and breast-feed each for about two or three months.
  • In contrast, women in developing countries have six or seven children and breast-feed for about two years.
  • While this does not completely explain the difference, these lifestyle choices decrease the risk of breast cancer from 6.3 percent to 4.7 percent.

The study also find that if western women breast-fed for six months longer, the chances of breast cancer would drop 5 percent.

Source: Emma Ross, "Breast-Feeding May Protect Vs.[sic] Cancer," Dallas Morning News, July 19, 2002.


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