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Breastfeeding and Ovarian Cancer

Updated: Nov 2, 2023


The topic of cancer is never an easy discussion, leaving a mark in almost every person’s life as one of the leading causes of death worldwide. Many mothers-to-be worry about their health and how it can impact their baby, especially mothers who suffer from cancer. To you, we are here for you. The good news is that in recent years, numerous studies have proven the importance of breastfeeding in the prevention of many communicable and non-communicable diseases in mothers. Most notably, the correlation of breastfeeding to the prevention and reduced appearance of ovarian cancer. In today’s article, we’re going to cover ovarian cancer and breastfeeding.


What is ovarian cancer?

Ovarian cancer is one of the most common gynecologic cancers, making up a significant portion of women’s mortality. Although the likelihood of developing ovarian cancer is low, it is still classified as a global problem. It is also usually diagnosed at a late stage and is difficult to detect as there is no effective screening strategy. Known treatments used are cytoreductive surgery and platinum-based chemotherapy.

What’s the connection between ovarian cancer and breastfeeding?

Ovarian cancer and breastfeeding are not usually discussed together, hardly ever. However, it is important to note that as we previously mentioned, the correlation between breastfeeding and the prevention of ovarian cancer has become increasingly evident over the past few years.

A study published in the Gynecologic Oncology Journal found that breastfeeding for three months is associated with a lower risk of ovarian cancer. They also not only found an adverse relationship between the risk of ovarian cancer and decreasing breastfeeding over time, but it was also revealed that increased breastfeeding duration reduced the risk of ovarian cancer (1).

In fact, plenty of studies further verify that breastfeeding for a longer period may prevent ovarian cancer. One study found that breastfeeding for at least 18 months showed a significant decrease in the risk of ovarian cancer compared to exclusively bottle-feeding, showing a 2% decrease for every month a mother breastfeeds (2). A meta-analysis published in the American Journal of Clinical


Nutrition revealed that the risk of ovarian cancer decreased by 8% for every five months a mother increase their duration of breastfeeding (3).

The latest meta-analysis published in a Medical Oncology Journal indicated that a mother's breastfeeding practice is associated with reducing the risk of all variations of ovarian cancers. There was an 18% in mothers nursing one child for 3 months while breastfeeding for 12 months or more showed a 34% decrease in the risk (4).

To all of our dear mothers, we always recommend that you breastfeed your baby. In the case of cancer prevention, we even go as far as to say to continue for as long as possible. Not only does breastfeeding reduce the risk of ovarian cancer, but plenty of studies have also confirmed the relationship between breastfeeding and the risk and likelihood of developing it.

From the Mommy Zone team, we are always here for you.


References:

  1. Modugno, F. et. al. (2019) Breastfeeding factors and risk of epithelial ovarian cancer. Gynecologic Oncology.

  2. Danforth, K.N., Tworoger, S.S., Hecht, J.L. et al. (2007) Breastfeeding and risk of ovarian. cancer in two prospective cohorts. Cancer Causes Control.

  3. Luan. N. et. al. (2013) Breastfeeding and ovarian cancer risk: a meta-analysis of epidemiologic studies. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

  4. Babic, A. et. al. (2020) Association Between Breastfeeding and Ovarian Cancer Risk. JAMA Oncology.

  5. Matulonis, U. et. al (2016) Ovarian Cancer. Nature Reviews Disease Primers.

  6. Momenimovahed, Z. et. al. (2019) Ovarian cancer in the world: epidemiology and risk factors. International Journal of Women’s Health.

  7. Figure source: Premium Vector | Woman ovarian cancer concept drawing (freepik.com)



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