Ovarian Cancer Coverage from Every Angle

Can Breastfeeding Reduce the Risk for Ovarian Cancer?

By: Jocelyn Solis-Moreira, MS
Posted: Monday, April 27, 2020

Breastfeeding has several health benefits for newborn babies, and a new study from JAMA Oncology finds it may also benefit the mother. Ana Babic, PhD, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, and colleagues found breastfeeding correlated with a decrease in the risk of developing all types of ovarian cancer. Moreover, women had a lower incidence of ovarian cancer regardless of breastfeeding for a short time.

“Overall, the risk of developing ovarian cancer dropped by 24% for women who breastfed, and even those who breastfed their children for 3 months or less had about an 18% lower risk of developing ovarian cancer,” said study coauthor Penelope M. Webb, PhD, of the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, in an institutional press release.

The authors conducted a population-based analysis of women in 13 Ovarian Cancer Association Consortium case studies who breastfed from 1980 to 2009. Women self-reported whether they breastfed, the number of months they breastfed, and their age during each pregnancy. Collectively, 9,973 women with ovarian cancer and 13,843 controls were included in the study. In addition, 89% of those enrolled self-identified as white.

Women who breastfed had a 24% lower risk in ovarian cancer (odds ratio [OR] = 0.76) compared with women who never breastfed. Breastfeeding was associated with a decreased risk for high-grade invasive tumors, including serous (OR = 0.75), endometrioid (OR = 0.73), and clear cell (OR = 0.78). In addition, women who breastfed had a 28% decrease in borderline tumor risk (OR = 0.72), specifically for mucinous (OR = 0.68) and serous (OR = 0.77) tumors.

Women with a breastfeeding history of at least 3 months (OR = 0.81) or less (OR = 0.70) had a lower risk for ovarian cancer than women who never breastfed. The decreased risk was greater in women who breastfed for more than 12 months (34%; OR = 0.66) compared with 3 months (18%; OR = 0.82). This risk reduction endured in women who breastfed 10 and 30 years ago (44% vs. 17%, OR = 0.56 vs. 0.83; P = .02).

Disclosure: The authors’ disclosures can be found at jamanetwork.com.

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