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Higher risk of breast cancer with lower fertility but not meat and dairy consumption.

The duration and frequency of breastfeeding has a direct correlation with the chances of developing breast cancer. An analysis of 47 published studies from 30 countries shows that the increase in breast cancer in developed countries can be attributed to fewer pregnancies and breastfeeding for shorter periods of time. Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK, with the risk of being affected by age 70 currently at 6.3 per 100 women. In developing countries, however, the risk is 2.7 per 100 women. There is no suggestion to return to the childbearing patterns of a century ago. Rather, the findings are a step towards discovering the mechanisms by which breast cancer develops, which could provide leads for preventing or treating it. They also help to explain why breast cancer incidence is so high in developed countries. While it has been known that breast cancer is more common in women with few or no children and who breastfeed for shorter periods, this analysis shows that these factors alone account for much of the higher rates in the developed world [1]. Another analysis of prospective cohort studies from North America and Western Europe found no significant association between the intake of meat or dairy products and the risk of breast cancer [2].

[1.] Woodman I, Breastfeeding reduces risk of breast cancer, says study [News extra]. BMJ 2002;325:184.

[2.] Missmer SA, Smith-Warner SA, Spiegelman D et al. Meat and dairy food consumption and breast cancer: a pooled analysis of cohort studies. International Journal of Epidemiology 2002;31(1):78-85.
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Title Annotation:Research
Publication:Reproductive Health Matters
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Nov 1, 2002
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