Breastfeeding: Is breast health affected by breastfeeding?


Though the scientific literature clearly shows there is a reduced risk of breast cancer in women who have breastfed (and those who have been nursed as babies), it is important for both women and their health care providers to remember that this does not mean they are free of risk.

If you notice any breast changes, it is very important that they be brought to the immediate attention of your health care provider. Changes can include unusual discharge, a change in the size or shape or placement of your breast, a change in the color or feel of the skin of your breast, areola or nipple, or a lump or thickening in or near your breast, or in the underarm area. Monthly breast self-exams, regular breast screenings by your health care provider, and mammograms (if you are over the age of 40 or have other risk factors) are important for all women.. Don't let a positive history of breastfeeding, or being breastfed as an infant, lull you into complacency. Early detection of breast cancer saves lives!


  • Byers T, et al. Lactation and breast cancer: evidence for a negative association in premenopausal women. American Journal of Epidemiology 1985; 121:664-74.
  • Chilvers et al 1994, in Update on Breast Cancer, Australian Cancer Network, 1994
  • Layde P, et al. The independent associations of parity, age at first full term pregnancy, and duration of breastfeeding with the risk of breast cancer. Journal of Clinical Epidemiology 1989; 42:963-73.
  • McTiernan et al. Evidence for a Protective Effect of Lactation on Risk of Breast Cancer in Young Women. Am J Epidemiol 1986; 124(3):353-58.
  • Newcomb, P, et al. Lactation and a reduced risk of premenopausal breast cancer. The New England Journal of Medicine 1994; 330(2):81-7.
  • Romieu I, et al. Am J Epidemiol 1996; 143(6)543-52
  • Siskind V, et al. Breast cancer and breastfeeding: results from and Australian case-control study. American Journal of Epidemiology 1989;130:229-36.
  • Yuan J, et al. Risk Factors for Breast Cancer in Chinese Women in Shanghai. Cancer Research 48 (1988) 1949-53.
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