Two more reasons to breast-feed: It may reduce moms' cancer and diabetes risk

Thanks to a deluge of public health campaigns in the United States over the past decade, everyone knows how good breast-feeding can be for your child beyond simple nutrition. Breast milk is known for its disease-fighting power that can protect newborns from everything from stomach viruses and ear infections; and there are also studies that showed breast-fed babies have higher IQs - and grow up to be wealthier to boot.

What about moms?

Most of the focus on the benefits to mothers has been on psychological effects such as strengthening the maternal bond. But a growing number of new studies provide evidence that breast-feeding may have a strong physical effect as well by cutting the women's risk of diabetes and cancer.

In a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine recently and funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, researchers studied 1,035 women at Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, California, who delivered one child at term and who developed gestational diabetes. They found that those who breast-fed were a great deal less likely - up to 50 percent less - to develop diabetes 2 in subsequent years than those who did not breast-feed. Researchers theorized that lactation may affect metabolism and insulin sensitivity.

Another study published in the Annals of Oncology in October involved an analysis of 37,000 cases of women with breast cancer and found evidence suggesting that those who breast-feed may reduce an aggressive type of cancer called hormone receptive negative tumors by 20 percent. Previous research has shown that breast-feeding may also reduce the risk of ovarian cancer and the evidence of breastfeeding's protective effects is growing. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics states that"each year of breast-feeding has been calculated to result in a 4.3 percent reduction in breast cancer."

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