Breastfeeding has a multitude of benefits and not only for the baby. Breastfeeding parents can gain a lot of benefits, including a reduction in breast cancer risk. According to new research, though, many new moms aren't learning about breastfeeding and cancer prevention from their doctors. Even if they are able to receive the information from someone else, here's why that's really concerning.
Aside from skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in American women. According to the American Cancer Society, the current average risk of a woman in the United States developing breast cancer over the course of her life is about 12 percent.
More than 40,000 people die of breast cancer each year in the United States, as reported by the MD Anderson Cancer Center. Although treatments are improving survival rates, prevention is still important to discuss.
People may think breastfeeding only benefits the baby, but it has been shown to reduce breast cancer risks. That's obviously something new parents should know and may want to take into account when making decisions about breastfeeding. But, are they being told?
For a study published in Breastfeeding Medicine, researchers at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center - Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC - James) decided to explore the link between knowledge of breastfeeding's impact on breast cancer risk and its influence on overall breastfeeding practices.
Researchers worked with 724 women who had at least one live birth, as outlined by the study's abstract. They found that although nearly 60 percent of breastfeeding mothers knew that breastfeeding can reduce their risk of cancer, only 16 percent reported learning this from medical professionals, according to Eurek!Alert.
59 percent of the 39 women who didn't breastfeed said that if they knew that breastfeeding can reduce cancer risk, that may have impacted their decision.
The results of this survey are clearly concerning, because this is the type of information that new moms deserve to hear from their doctors. The study's principal investigator, Bhuvana Ramaswamy, said, according to Eurek!Alert:
"We have a duty as a medical community to ensure our patients have reliable knowledge. When it comes from a professional, medical information is much more likely to affect people's choices. When it comes to breast cancer specifically, prevention is the best outcome."
This information is especially important for black women, who are more likely to develop triple-negative breast cancer than any other women, as reported by Eurek!Alert. Currently, black women have the lowest rates of breastfeeding, compared with other women, as noted by the study's abstract.
There are various factors that contribute to low breastfeeding rates, such as having to return to work sooner, fear of being stigmatized if they feed in public, and workplaces that don't support breastfeeding. Lack of information around breastfeeding benefits is also a factor, though, so it's important for mothers to be fully informed.
This isn't to shame anyone who chooses not to or cannot breastfeed. Instead, this study highlights the importance of giving people all the information available, so they can make a fully-informed decision. Some new moms are lucky enough to have support systems who can tell them about breastfeeding and cancer prevention, which is good. Doctors should still be informing new mothers about this link.