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Pink News: Reproductive factors linked to breast cancer

A new Iranian study found women who have not given birth or given birth at an older age or undergone an abortion were at much higher risk of developing breast cancer.

Hajian-Tilaki K.O. and Kaveh-Ahangar T. from Babol University of Medical Sciences in Babol, Iran compared 100 newly diagnosed breast cancer cases with 200 age-matched controls for the difference in a number of reproductive factors.

The researchers found having first pregnancy at an older age and an abortion boosted breast cancer risk by 310 percent and 193 percent respectively.

On the other hand, increasing parity or the number of birth was found to reduce the breast cancer risk significantly.  Women with parity equal to or greater than 5 had their risk of breast cancer reduced by 91 percent compared with those nulliparous women or those who did not given birth.  And each additional birth reduced the risk by 50 percent.

The duration of breast feeding was found inversely associated with breast cancer risk.  But after adjustment for parity, the protective effect of breastfeeding was not observed. This could mean giving birth is more important than breastfeeding when it comes to preventing breast cancer.

The findings were reported in the April 3, 2010 issue of Medical Oncology.

Another case-control study conducted in Sri Lanka found women who breastfed 24 months or longer in their lifetime were 60 percent less likely to develop breast cancer compared with those who breastfed less than 24 hours.

The study was conducted by De Silva M and colleagues from the University of Colombo in Colombo, Sri Lanka and published in the June 2010 issue of Cancer Epidemiology.

De Silva et al. also found women who breastfed 12 to 23 months were 66.3 percent less likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer than those who breastfed 0 to 11 months in their lifetime.

When women breastfed for 24 to 35 months, the risk of breast cancer was reduced by 87.4 percent compared with those who breastfed 0 to 11 month.  Those who breastfed 36 to 47 months were 94 percent less likely to have breast cancer.

Women who had an abortion in the past were 242 percent more likely to have breast cancer and exposure to passive smoking could boost the risk by 196 percent.

The study involved 100 recent cases of breast cancer and 203 controls with age and parity matched.

Breast cancer is expected to be diagnosed in about 200,000 women and kill about 50000 women in 2010 in the United States, according to American Cancer Society.

More reports will be published here on foodconsumer.org in the National Breast Cancer Awareness  Month to help readers better understand breast cancer and how to prevent the disease.  

Critics like naturalnews.com suggested the pink month is no more than a commercial campaign to promote sales of a variety of products some of which can even promote breast cancer.

In the pink month, we's like readers to be aware of one thing, that is, breast cancer in many cases is preventable. Even if a person has a family history of the disease or genetic risk, he can still minimize the risk by following modified lifestyle parameters like diet.

David Liu