Breast cancer awareness month started in 1985 and the pink ribbons that represent the breast cancer research foundation began in 1993. The foundation and the awareness month have done tons to raise awareness and money to research a cure for breast cancer and celebrate the survivors that give other women hope. Though no cure for breast cancer has been found yet, there are ways for women to avoid this debilitating disease and most of them revolve around living a healthy lifestyle. However, there is another way that can potentially stop women from developing breast cancer, and that’s by breastfeeding.

A new analysis published online in the Journal of Clinical Nursing has found that nonsmoking women who breastfeed for at least six months have a greater chance of not developing breast cancer later in the future. The analysis involved the records from 504 women between the ages of 19 and 91. Every one of the women had been treated for breast cancer from 2004 to 2009 at the San Cecilio University Hospital in Granada.

Dr. Milio González-Jiménez of the University of Granada in Spain and his team looked through the women’s medical records and searched at factors including age of diagnosis, the length of time the women breastfed, family history of cancer, obesity, how much alcohol they regularly consumed, and if the women smoked or not.

The analysis was divided into three groups. The first was non-smoking women who breastfed for shorter than six months. The second consisted of non-smoking women who breastfed for at least six months or longer, and the last was women who smoked and also breastfed. It was found that non-smoking women who breastfed for shorter than six months developed their breast cancer much later than normal, and non-smoking women who breastfed for over six months developed their breast cancer at least 10 years later than the first group. These two groups led the analysis team to conclude that breastfeeding had a significant impact on delaying the development of breast cancer until much later in life, if not at all.

The last group of women did not receive any delayed development of breast cancer, and the analysis team decided that smoking outweighed the benefits of breastfeeding when it came to developing certain cancers.

Though breastfeeding isn’t a cure for cancer, the analysis showed that it can potentially delay breast cancer for decades. The team only reviewed the medical records for women who eventually developed cancer, however, so it could be that many non-smoking women never developed cancer at all thanks to breastfeeding for six months or more.

Source: Wiley. "In nonsmoking women, breastfeeding for more than six months may protect against breast cancer." ScienceDaily, 15 Aug. 2013. Web. 24 Aug. 2013.