(HealthDay News) – For nonsmokers, breastfeeding for >6 months is associated with later breast cancer diagnosis, according to a study published online Aug. 13 in the Journal of Clinical Nursing.

Emilio González-Jiménez, PhD, from the Universidad de Granada in Melilla, Spain, and colleagues conducted a retrospective study of the clinical histories of 504 female patients aged 19–91 years who had been diagnosed and treated for breast cancer from 2004–2009. The age of diagnosis was related to smoking habits and length of lactation period using a conditional inference tree.

The researchers found that regardless of the patients’ family history of breast cancer, childbirth and breastfeeding were inversely related to the age of breast cancer diagnosis. Overall, a longer lactation period correlated with a reduced risk of breast cancer. For female nonsmokers, breastfeeding for >6 months correlated with later diagnosis of breast cancer (average gain of 10 years in mean age at diagnosis). Breastfeeding was not associated with benefits in the mean age of diagnosis for smokers.

“In conclusion, breastfeeding for periods of over six months not only provides children with numerous health benefits, but also protects the mother from serious diseases such as breast cancer,” the authors write. “Accordingly, breastfeeding is a potential ally in the fight against breast tumors.”

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