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Breastfeeding "cuts cancer risk"

Women with inherited breast cancer genes, who breastfeed, are much less likely to develop the disease, it has been revealed.

Two inherited genes, BRCA-1 and BRCA-2 increase the risks of breast cancer developing to 50% and 80% for the women who have them. New research says if these women breastfeed then they can cut the chances that they will develop tumours, before the menopause, by 59%.

The US study shows that the effect of breastfeeding is similar to results seen from taking hormonal treatment, Tamoxifen, for five years.

Dr Alison Stuebe, who led the study at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, which has been published in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine, said this study is an important breakthrough.

"This is good news for women with a family history of breast cancer," Dr Stuebe said.

How long a woman breastfed for was less important than whether or not she actually did so. The reduction in risk was about the same whether women breastfed for just three months or for more than three years.

There was also no significant difference in risk between women who breastfed exclusively and those who supplemented breast milk with bottle feeding.

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Archives of Internal Medicine