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Breastfeeding May Cut Risk For Aggressive Breast Cancer In Black Women

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Black mothers who choose to not breastfeed may be at a higher risk of breast cancer than those who do, according to research conducted at Boston University's Slone Epidemiology Center. The study, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, surveyed data on nearly 3,700 black breast cancer patients - one third of whom had estrogen receptor-negative breast cancer, a type of breast cancer more common in black women.

Women who had children were one-third times more likely to develop estrogen receptor-negative breast cancer than women who had had no children. However, women who had four or more children but never breast fed were 68 percent more likely to develop an estrogen receptor-negative breast cancer, compared to women who had had one child but did breast feed.

"Our findings suggest that . . . lactation may ameliorate the effects of pregnancy and childbirth," the authors wrote.

"This may explain, in part, why African-American women, who typically have more children but a lower prevalence of lactation than U.S. white women, are disproportionately affected by ER-breast cancer."

Studies have shown that certain reproductive patterns that are more common among African American women, including giving birth to more than one child, younger age at menarche, early age at first pregnancy, which may be associated with increased risk of aggressive subtypes of breast cancer, according to the Sisters Network.

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