The protective effects of breastfeeding against developing breast cancer are well known; however, it is unknown whether women are aware of this breastfeeding benefit. Research Aim/Questions: The aim of this investigation was to determine whether mothers received information about breast cancer risk reduction during breastfeeding counseling and whether this knowledge affected their decision to initiate and sustain breastfeeding.
The survey was conducted at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center with women aged 18-50 who had at least one live birth. Participants were recruited through primary care practice and a national clinical research registry.
Six hundred sixty-seven (92%) of the 724 respondents breastfed. Over half of them (56%), that is, 407 women (60.4% Caucasian, 46.9% African American), were aware before their most recent childbirth that breastfeeding reduced the risk of breast cancer. Of the 407 women, 36.4% said this knowledge affected their decision to breastfeed. Of the 39 who did not breastfeed, 23 women (59.0%) responded that awareness of risk reduction would have influenced their decision to breastfeed. Only 120 of 724 respondents (16.6%) received this information from healthcare providers. Women with this knowledge breastfed longer than those without this knowledge (13.2 versus 9.3 months; p < 0.001). More Caucasian women (76.4%) breastfed any one child for more than 6 months compared with African American women (63.2%; p = 0.011; chi-squared test).
While several factors affect the initiation and duration of breastfeeding, this study demonstrates that knowledge of association between breastfeeding and breast cancer risk reduction may influence breastfeeding practices. Our study illustrates the need for improved counseling for mothers by healthcare providers regarding this benefit.