It is common knowledge that there are many health benefits for breastfed babies. The health benefits for babies include decreased risk of respiratory and gastrointestinal illnesses, and ear infections. Breastfed babies also have a decreased risk of other diseases later in life like diabetes and obesity.
However, there are several health benefits for moms who breastfed as well. A new study gives further credit to the belief that breastfeeding moms have a decreased risk of developing ovarian cancer throughout their lives.
Ovarian cancer is diagnosed in over 20,000 women per year in the United States. It is the leading cause of death out of all gynecologic cancers in the United States. Due to its vague symptoms, such as abdominal distress, ovarian cancer often goes undiagnosed until it is too late. Only 25 percent of all cases are diagnosed before they spread into the pelvic region. Women who are diagnosed before the cancer spreads have a survival rate of 90 percent. Since this disease is so hard to diagnose and is often caught late, prevention is key.
As reported by news.com on January 31, 2013, a recent study conducted in Guangzhou, China used 493 ovarian cancer patients and 472 hospital-based control patients to help determine the effects of breastfeeding on ovarian cancer rates. China was chosen for the study due to its higher population in which to sample from and also because Chinese mothers usually breastfeed longer than women of the western world.
Researchers determined that breastfeeding for a duration of 20 months decreases the risk of ovarian cancer by 50 percent. Furthermore, the 20 months of breastfeeding did not have to be consecutive with the same child. Breastfeeding for as little as 12 months can also give mothers a decreased risk of ovarian cancer.
Breastfeeding decreases the risk of ovarian cancer by decreasing the number of times a woman ovulates in her lifetime. The more times ovulation occurs in the female body the higher the risk of cell mutation, which can lead to ovarian cancer. The longer a woman breastfeeds the greater her protection against ovarian cancer.
The research is set to be published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in February.