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Breast Cancer

Why Aren’t Doctors Telling Women Breastfeeding Can Reduce Cancer Risk?

Published Oct 26, 2018

A lot of women (more than 60% surveyed in a new study) are aware that there’s a link between breastfeeding and breast cancer risk reduction – but they didn’t hear it from their doctors. The study, conducted by researchers at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center (OSUCCC), found that only 16% of women surveyed were told about the link between breastfeeding and reduced cancer risk by medical professionals. Those numbers are quite troubling, because if the information isn’t thoroughly vetted and coming from doctors, the question of accuracy is going to cross a lot of people’s minds.

The survey polled 724 women who had at least one child and found that most women – 92% – said they chose to breast feed, but only 56% of all respondents knew about any link between breastfeeding and cancer. Among the women who chose not to breastfeed, 59% said if they had known about the reduction in breast cancer risk, it would have impacted their decision about breastfeeding.

So why aren’t doctors telling women about this link? It could have something to do with ongoing research. OSUCCC’s survey is part of a larger research effort at the cancer center that is exploring exactly how, and why breastfeeding can reduce a woman’s risk for breast cancer – and how significant that reduction is. Studies have shown a strong correlation between breastfeeding and a reduced risk of developing a particularly dangerous type of breast cancer – triple negative breast cancer. But the question of why is still up in the air.

Still, the study’s lead investigator Dr. Bhuvana Ramaswamy said it’s troubling that so many women aren’t being told about the link when they are pregnant or considering breastfeeding.

“We have a duty as a medical community to ensure our patients have reliable knowledge,” Dr. Ramaswamy said. “When it comes from a professional, medical information is much more likely to affect people’s choices. When it comes to breast cancer specifically, prevention is the best outcome.”

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