A recent review on nearly 20 studies on the benefits of breastfeeding shows that the natural practice reduce the chances of babies to develop pediatric leukemia, the most common type of childhood cancer, by 14 percent to 19 percent.
The review was conducted by Efrat Amitay of the University of Haifa in Israel and was published June 1 in the online medical journal JAMA pediatrics.
However, researchers that were not involved in the study cautioned that the review did not hold strong evidence that breastfeeding prevents cancer since the authors had only interviewed mothers of children with cancer and compared their answers to those who did not have a child affected by leukemia.
The findings are only statistical, researchers explained. Additionally, critics of the review claim that mothers with a kid affected by leukemia may have an altered memory of what happened during their child’s infancy.
They also say that the review found a link between breastfeeding and slimmer cancer risks, rather than a cause-and-effect relationship.
Elizabeth Ward from the American Cancer Society who criticized the review’s results said that mothers shouldn’t start to point the blame stick at themselves over their kid’s cancer because they failed to breastfeed him/her for at least six months, as the study suggested.
“There are thousands of kids in the United States who aren’t breastfed, and the vast majority don’t get leukemia,”
Ms. Ward added.
Patrick Brown from the American Society of Hematology also believes that breastfeeding is just one of the various factors that may trigger childhood leukemia, but by no means should the review’s findings should be considered clear evidence that there is a direct link between lack of breastfeeding and high incidence of cancer.
Leukemia usually affects only one in 20,000 children, Brown argued, so according to the review breastfeeding would reduce cancer risk from 0.005 percent to 0.004 percent.
Ms. Ward also argued that a reliable study should involve thousands of children, who should be monitored from their early days throughout their childhood to see who develop cancer and why.
But Dr. Rosemary Higgins from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development confirmed that breastfeeding is crucial to the health of both mother and child at least at a psychological level. Dr. Higgins argued that the simple process can help the mother and child to bond which is very beneficial for the kid’ psyche.
Moreover, other studies had shown that breastfeeding moms tend to lose excess weight faster and have a lower risk of ovarian and breast cancers.
Image Source: Wallis for Wellness