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Approved Research

The long-term impact of being breastfed on risk of adult cancers

Principal Investigator: Dr Lise Bjerregaard
Approved Research ID: 95095
Approval date: October 19th 2022

Lay summary

Breastfeeding is beneficial for the health of infants. Some studies show that breastfeeding reduces risks of obesity in childhood and adulthood, but apart from this, little is known about its possible long term health effects of breastfeeding. For several biological reasons, it is possible that having been breastfed may affect an individual's risk of cancer. In this project we will examine whether breastfeeding reduces risks of several common cancers in adulthood in individuals who were breastfed. We will investigate if these association differ in men and women and by birthweight and the influence on the associations by maternal factors around birth.

This project will yield novel insights into whether the modifiable factor of breastfeeding has long-term protective effects against cancer in individuals who were breastfed and about which factors drive these associations. These results may strengthen the basis for breastfeeding recommendations. Although breastfeeding is the recommended way to nourish infants and European women having few barriers to breastfeeding because of maternity leave, the majority of them do not meet official recommendations for the length of breastfeeding Thus, too many infants are not receiving the well-described short-term health benefits and, importantly, potential long-term benefits as well. Results from this project may indicate that breastfeeding promotion, protection and support could contribute to improving long-term offspring cancer risk, which is relevant for policy makers, health professionals and mothers themselves.