| 16.9°C Dublin

Breastfeeding cuts cancer risk

The shockingly higher than average rates of ovarian cancer among Irish women as reported by you (Health and Living, Irish Independent, March 9) have prompted me to share some facts.

In Ireland, formula milk has been the dominant food for infants for a few generations. Even nowadays, despite all the recommendations by WHO, UNICEF and our own Department of Health and Children, we are quite poor on our initiation and continuation of breastfeeding.

There is evidence that breastfeeding is associated with a reduced risk of women's cancers, including ovarian cancer, breast cancer and possibly endometrial cancer.

Even two months of breastfeeding reduces the risk of ovarian cancer by 25pc for the mother.

The recipient is also benefiting from the fact that a component of breast milk kills cancer cells, and research at Lund University in Sweden found that this applied to every type of cancer cell tested.

I therefore suggest that if we had higher rates of breastfeeding in Ireland, as is currently standard in other European countries, we would have a reduced rate of deaths from ovarian cancer.

Parents need to be aware of this and the many other health implications, for both the mother and child, when considering how they will feed their newborn baby.

Helena Byrne
Enniscorthy, Co Wexford