Association between breastfeeding and reduced risk of aggressive breast cancer

Breastfeeding and breast cancer risk by receptor status—a systematic review and meta-analysis

breastfeeding image
A large international study shows that breastfeeding is associated with a lower risk of developing an aggressive form of breast cancer called hormone-receptor negative. This new combined evidence shows the risk was reduced by up to 20% in women who breastfed. Breastfeeding by Maja.

2015 Study Abstract

Breastfeeding is inversely associated with overall risk of breast cancer. This association may differ in breast cancer subtypes defined by receptor status, as they may reflect different mechanisms of carcinogenesis. We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of case–control and prospective cohort studies to investigate the association between breastfeeding and breast cancer by estrogen receptor (ER), progesterone receptor (PR), and human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) status.

We searched the PubMed and Scopus databases and bibliographies of pertinent articles to identify relevant articles and used random-effects models to calculate summary odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs).

This meta-analysis represents 27 distinct studies (8 cohort and 19 case–control), with a total of 36 881 breast cancer cases. Among parous women, the risk estimates for the association between ever (versus never) breastfeeding and the breast cancers negative for both ER and PR were similar in three cohort and three case–control studies when results were adjusted for several factors, including the number of full-term pregnancies (combined OR 0.90; 95% CI 0.82–0.99), with little heterogeneity and no indication of publication bias. In a subset of three adjusted studies that included ER, PR, and HER2 status, ever breastfeeding showed a stronger inverse association with triple-negative breast cancer (OR 0.78; 95% CI 0.66–0.91) among parous women. Overall, cohort studies showed no significant association between breastfeeding and ER+/PR+ or ER+ and/or PR+ breast cancers, although one and two studies (out of four and seven studies, respectively) showed an inverse association.

This meta-analysis showed a protective effect of ever breastfeeding against hormone receptor-negative breast cancers, which are more common in younger women and generally have a poorer prognosis than other subtypes of breast cancer. The association between breastfeeding and receptor-positive breast cancers needs more investigation.

Sources and more information
  • Breastfeeding and breast cancer risk by receptor status—a systematic review and meta-analysis, Oxford Journals, Medicine & Health, Annals of Oncology, Advance Access, 10.1093/annonc/mdv379, October 26, 2015.
  • Study shows association between breastfeeding and reduced risk of aggressive breast cancer, American Cancer Society, 27-OCT-2015.

Have your say! Share your views