Two new studies show more evidence of the importance of breast-feeding for both infants and the mother. According to a report from the Associated Press on January 30, 2001, women who breast-fed their babies for two years or longer reduced their risk of breast cancer by 50%. The study by Yale University following rural women in China, found that the benefits to the mother are long lasting and can reduce cancer risk before and after menopause.
In the US less than 1/3 of women continue breast-feeding for six months after the birth of their infant. Only small portions of women in the US breast-feed their babies until 2 years old. However, in China, as in other developing areas, breast-feeding for longer periods of time is normal.
One of the two possible reasons given by the researchers was that breast-feeding reduces exposure to estrogen and the regular female hormone cycles. The other possible reason given by the researchers is that fat-soluble cancer causing agents and other pollutants are not stored in the tissues of women’s breasts as easily when they are breast-feeding.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breast-feeding for babies at least up to the first year of life. UNICEF and the World Health Organization go even farther and recommend that babies be breast-fed with the addition of other foods until at least the age of two.