More breast-feeding could save thousands of women’s lives, study finds

06/25/2013

A new study concluded that if most new mothers breast-fed their babies for at least a year after each birth, in accordance with medical groups' guidelines, nearly 5,000 cases of breast cancer, approximately 54,000 cases of hypertension and almost 14,000 heart attacks could be avoided in women each year in the U.S. Additionally, the authors estimate that nearly 4,400 premature maternal deaths could be prevented with optimal breast-feeding, along with a corresponding cost to society of $17 billion. Previous studies have shown an association between shorter duration of breast-feeding and increased rates of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, hypertension, type 2 diabetes and heart attack. For the new study, published in Obstetrics & Gynecology, the authors assumed a causal relationship between breast-feeding and maternal health and then used economic modeling to simulate health and health care costs of 100,000 women from age 15 through 70. They then assessed outcomes expected if 90% of mothers were able to breast-feed for at least one year after each birth, compared to outcomes under the current one-year breast-feeding rate of 23%. Read the abstract.

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