Friday, November 02, 2007

Interesting approach being used in the UK - Thanks to Patti Rundall

Breastfeeding reduces cancer risk says comprehensive scientific review -Will the UK Government act now to control formula marketing?
Press release 31 October 2007

The World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) report Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity and the Prevention of Cancer: a Global Perspective published today states strong evidence shows that breastfeeding protects mothers against breast cancer and babies from excess weight gain. Excess weight gain is linked to increased risk of cancer. The report comes at a critical time as the UK Government is deliberating on strengthening legislation on the marketing of breastmilk substitutes.The report adds to the overwhelming medical advice to the Government to take a tough and effective line with the manufacturers of breastmilk substitutes (such as infant formula and follow-on formula) and ensure that parents are provided with truly independent information instead of misleading commercial promotion.

All the leading health professional bodies dealing with infant and young child health (members of the Baby Feeding Law Group and the Breastfeeding Manifesto Coalition submission is Protecting breastfeeding - Protecting babies fed on formula) and the Government’s Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) are calling for the Infant Formula and Follow-on Formula Regulations to be brought into line with marketing requirements adopted by the World Health Assembly and implemented in many other countries. The Government has received 1,341 submissions to the consultation and will be presenting finalised legislation to Parliament in November.The World Cancer Research Fund report includes 10 recommendations from a panel of 21 world-renowned scientists that represent the most definitive and authoritative advice that has ever been available on how the general public can reduce the risk of cancer.

Recommendation 9 states : "It's best for mothers to breastfeed exclusively for up to 6 months and then add other liquids and foods. Strong evidence shows that breastfeeding protects mothers against breast cancer and babies from excess weight gain."Recommendation 1 states: "Be as lean as possible without becoming underweight. Convincing evidence shows that weight gain and obesity increases the risk of a number of cancers, including bowel and breast cancer."

"There is convincing evidence that breast feeding protects against pre-menopausal and post-menopausal breast cancer. There is also limited evidence that it protects against cancer of the ovary. There is also evidence that being breastfed probably protects babies from becoming overweight or obese in later life." Authors think that "breastfeeding lowers the levels of some cancer-related hormones in the mother’s body, which reduces the risk of breast cancer. At the end of breastfeeding, the body gets rid of any cells in the breast that may have DNA damage. This reduces the risk of breast cancer in the future.According to a Government survey, nine in ten mothers who gave up breastfeeding within six weeks said they would have preferred to breastfeed for longer, as did 40% of those who breastfed for at least 6 months." (ref: Page 211 Infant Feeding Survey 2005)


Pixie LaRouge said...

Thanks for having this blog. There have been a couple of times that nursing my boy have really gotten to me, and I remind myself of the information I've read on here and why I WILL NOT give up on nursing. Besides, I nursed my first for two years, so it can't be all that hard :)

Anonymous said...

I think it can be dangerous to make sweeping statements like someone in the field of oncology, there are many types of breast cancer, including those that are hormone-receptor negative, in which case, breastfeeding will not have any protective effects. In addition, many times, the cancer has been growing for 8-10 years by the time it is palpable/visible on mammography. This means that it is most likely in very early stages (undetectable) by the time a woman starts breastfeeding. These cells are not "gotten rid of" when a woman finishes breastfeeding. As for ovarian cancer, if a woman has a BRCA mutation, yes, she is more at-risk for ovarian cancer as well as breast cancer - and colon cancer. Will breastfeeding be a panacea? No. This is a genetic mutation that cannot necessarily be solved by breastfeeding. I have seen many women who have breastfed their children and have breast cancer, and they are shocked, because they think they've "done everything right".

I think much more research needs to be done on this, and I think that we should tread very lightly when we start making judgements like this.