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Breastfeeding cuts risk of epithelial ovarian cancer

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By David Liu PHD

Wednesday Aug 1, 2012 (foodconsumer.org) --  Breastfeeding may help reduce risk of epithelial ovarian cancer, according to a new study published online April 24, 2012 in Cancer Causes and Control.

The study led by S.J. Jordan of The University of Queensland in Herston, Australia and colleagues found women who ever breastfed were 22 percent less likely to develop ovarian cancer, compared with those who never did.

Researchers found the association after analyzing data from 881 women who breastfed and 1345 women who did not who were enrolled in a population-based study of ovarian cancer in western Washington State, USA from 2002 through 2007.

The researchers also found longer duration of breastfeeding was associated with greater risk reduction. The risk reduction in women who breastfed a child for 18 months was 44 percent, compared to those who did not breastfeed.

The reduction in ovarian cancer risk was greatest for the endometrioid and clear cell subtypes for which one month of breastfeeding was linked to a 6 percent reduction in the risk.

The researchers concluded "Among women who have had the opportunity to breastfeed, ever breastfeeding and increasing durations of episodes of breastfeeding for each breast-fed child are associated with a decrease in the risk of ovarian cancer independent of numbers of births, which may be strongest for the endometrioid subtype."

Ovarian cancer is expected to be diagnosed in 22,280 women in the United States in 2012 and an estimated 15,500 women are expected to die from the disease and complications in 2012 in the US, according to the National Cancer Institute.

U.S. physicians recommend that babies should be breastfed for 12 months or longer should both the baby and the mother so desire. Breastfeeding is known to reduce risk of breast cancer.