Breast Feeding may Help Those Who’ve Had Cancer in Childhood

Researchers have discovered that breastfeeding could help mothers who had cancer during their childhood years.

Dr. James Klosky of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital,  a leading Tennessee Hospital, said,  “It appears that breastfeeding may be particularly beneficial to mothers who have survived childhood cancer, as it offers protection to many of the systems most vulnerable to childhood cancer therapies.’’

Mother Breastfeeding Baby In NurseryThe study looked at determining if women would be able to breast feed after undergoing childhood treatments for cancer, and also how being treated for cancer as a child may impact the health of women over time. Researchers also evaluated how breast feeding could potentially mitigate some of the toxic effects from cancer treatment.

In the body the systems that are most vulnerable to the side effects from cancer therapies include the skeletal system, cardiovascular system, and endocrine system. Skeletal effects of cancer treatment are seen with low bone mineral density making patients vulnerable to conditions such as osteoporosis.  Within the cardiovascular arena, heart disease remains one of the major problems affecting health worldwide, and endocrine disorders or disruptions can cause obesity or disorders such as diabetes. The researchers found that breast feeding can have a positive effect on all of these areas.

In the study researchers found that breastfeeding moms with previously diagnosed childhood cancers may experience a reduction in the levels of breast cancer, uterine cancer and ovarian cancer. For any type of cancer prevention it is always encouraged for patients to make healthy lifestyle choices with regards to diet, exercise, and making sure to both abstain from smoking and to avoid any exposure to second hand smoke.

Journal of Cancer Survivorship, news release, Jan. 20, 2011

Other Helpful Cancer Prevention Tips:
There are other studies which have shown that another way to help prevent the risk for lowered bone density or osteoporosis is to make sure that patients have adequate Vitamin D in their diet as well as appropriate Vitamin D levels.  Additionally, some cancer researchers are looking at the role that Vitamin D itself could play in reducing the risk of initial or recurrent cancers. Vitamin D has also been found to be important with weight loss and metabolism, and heart health. Therefore, it is important for patients to seek out good medical advice and not only look at breast feeding as an adjunct to reduce the effects of childhood cancer treatment, but to also incorporate other interventions including the monitoring and supplementation if appropriate of vitamins such as Vitamin D and other nutrients to look at how to reduce cancer risk through a comprehensive approach.

Although Vitamin D has been in the spotlight for the past several years, many family physicians are not adequately testing or monitoring levels of this important vitamin in their patients. Before your next physician visit, it may be helpful for you as the patient to include a request for your doctor to test your Vitamin D levels. The most appropriate Vitamin D test for most patients and the one you should request be done is called the Vitamin D, 25 Hydroxy test. Always get a copy of your own lab results and if you need help interpreting your Vitamin D levels feel free to post them in the comment section here on the site.