Breastfeeding does lower a mother’s risk of breast cancer. However, only 38.5% of women in the U.S. are aware of this health benefit, a new UC Davis Health study has found.
“Pregnant women need to know about the different ways breastfeeding improves the health of both moms and babies,” said Adrienne Hoyt-Austin, a pediatrician at UC Davis Health and the study’s first author. “This awareness is vital so mothers can ask for and get the support they need- especially when breastfeeding is challenging.”
One of every eight women in the U.S. is diagnosed with breast cancer. Mothers who breastfeed for more than a year cut their risk of breast cancer by 26%. Yet, only 35% of U.S. mothers breastfed their infants for at least a year as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Breastfeeding linked to lower breast cancer risk
The researchers analyzed data from 5,554 women, aged 15-49, who participated in the 2015–2017 National Survey for Family Growth. They found that:
- Women born in the U.S. were less likely than those born outside the country to know that breastfeeding decreases a woman’s breast cancer risk.
- Awareness of the maternal health benefits of breastfeeding was lowest among women who were yet to give birth, those who were less educated and Hispanic women born in the U.S.
- Women who were aware that breastfeeding reduces breast cancer risk were more likely to have breastfed as recommended by the CDC.
“Hundreds of American families could avoid the pain and suffering caused by breast cancer if more mothers got the support they needed to breastfeed,” said Eleanor Bimla Schwarz, professor of medicine at UC Davis Health and senior author on the study. “Investing in paid maternity leave and ‘baby-friendly’ hospitals saves precious health care dollars while improving the lives of both women and children.”
The study was published Nov. 5 in Obstetrics & Gynecology. Co-authors are Melanie S. Dove, Renata Abrahão and Laura Kair.
Article: Hoyt-Austin et al. (2020). Awareness that Breastfeeding Reduces Breast Cancer Risk: 2015–2017 National Survey of Family Growth. Obstetrics & Gynecology. Doi: 10.1097/AOG.0000000000004162