Researchers at Boston University have found a significant reduction in breast cancer risk in the African-American population when mothers choose to breastfeed. The study results were published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention.

When African-American women have children, it increases their risk of breast cancer, if they choose not to breastfeed, according to researchers. The study included more than 50,000 African-American women included in a study that spanned from 1995 until 2009. Women were asked to fill out questionnaires about pregnancy and breastfeeding. Every two years, women in the study filled out another questionnaire about breast cancer diagnosis.

The study revealed that African-American women were at increased risk for breast cancer when they chose not to breastfeed their infants. The risk significantly increased with two or more childbirths. However, if the African-American mother chose to breastfeed, the risk of breast cancer did not increase. Researchers focused primarily on estrogen-receptor (ER) negative breast cancer. Risk of ER-negative breast cancer was 50-percent higher when mothers gave birth to two or more children and chose not to breastfeed.

Breastfeeding is a healthy and inexpensive feeding option for baby and mom, but now mothers have another reason to breastfeed, especially African-American women. The risk of ER-negative breast cancer was not significantly higher when African-American women breastfed. There was no mention if breastfeeding one child out of two reduced the risk.

Julie Palmer, senior author of the study, revealed, “The adverse effect of high childbirth without subsequent breastfeeding seems to be confined to the hormone receptor-negative breast cancer, which carries a higher mortality rate and is more common in African-Americans.” This means African-American women are not only reducing the risk of ER-negative breast cancer if they breastfeed, but they are also reducing the risk of mortality from breast cancer.

Source: Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention. 17 August, 2011.