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Breast-Feeding May Counter Some Effects of Childhood Cancer

TUESDAY, Jan. 25 (HealthDay News) -- Breast-feeding may help reduce some long-term negative side effects of cancer treatment in women who survived childhood cancer, according to a new study.

The findings suggest that making women aware of the benefits of breast-feeding should be part of routine recommendations for a post-cancer healthy lifestyle, said Susan W. Ogg and colleagues from St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn.

The researchers reviewed studies that examined whether women can successfully breast-feed after treatment for childhood cancer, how childhood cancer treatment affects women's health in general over the long term and whether breast-feeding might reduce both the risk and impact of treatment-related toxicity in cancer survivors.

The analysis revealed that breast-feeding can have a positive impact on a mother's bone mineral density, metabolic syndrome risk factors, cardiovascular disease and secondary tumors -- health factors that are all negatively affected by childhood cancer.

"Alongside advice to eat plenty of fruit and vegetables, abstain from smoking, use suitable sun protection, practice safe sex and take part in regular physical activity, women who have survived childhood cancer and are physically able to breast-feed should be actively encouraged to do so to help protect them against the many lasting effects of cancer treatment," the researchers concluded.

The study findings were released online in advance of publication in an upcoming print issue of the Journal of Cancer Survivorship.

About 80 percent of U.S. children and teens diagnosed with childhood cancer now survive, but many face major health challenges stemming from the cancer itself or its treatment. These challenges include impaired growth and development, organ dysfunction, reproductive difficulties and risk of cancer recurrence.

More information

The American Cancer Society has more about childhood cancer.

-- Robert Preidt

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

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