Israeli Research Shows Breastfeeding Prevents Cancer in Children

February 23, 2014

2 min read

(Photo: Kenny Louie/ Wiki Commons)
(Photo: Kenny Louie/ Wiki Commons)

The benefits of breastfeeding, for both mother and child, have long been touted.  It has been linked to lower rates of infection and infant mortality, higher child IQ, lower levels of obesity and allergies in children, as well as greater and faster weight loss, reduced rates of postpartum depression, rheumatoid arthritis and Alzheimer’s disease in mothers.  Now, researchers in Israel’s Haifa University have uncovered another benefit to breastfeeding: reduced risk of childhood cancer.

Until now, most research had been focused on whether breastfeeding prevents breast cancer in mothers.  That research remains inconclusive.

538 families were surveyed in the Israeli study; 190 were families in which a child developed leukemia or lymphoma between the ages of 1 and 19, and 348 families of healthy children from the same environments.

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“We asked the mothers in the study about breastfeeding, nutrition, exposure to pets, exposure to detergents, etc.,” said Dr. Lital Keinan-Boker, a professor in the University of Haifa’s School of Public Health and deputy director of the Israeli Health Ministry’s Center for Disease Control.  She conducted the study along with Efrat Amitai.

The results were encouraging: breastfed babies had a 60% reduction in cancer risks.  Additionally, babies that were breastfed exclusively for at least four months showed a 40% risk reduction over those who were breastfed for less than 4 months.

The study was funded by the Israel Cancer Association.

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