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African American women are known to be more likely to receive breast cancer test indicating they have estrogen receptor (ER) negative breast cancer. However, up until now, no one was sure why the prevalence of this type of cancer, which is very difficult to treat and often has a poor prognosis, was higher among this population.
Now, a team of researchers from Boston University has shown that having several children without breastfeeding may be associated with a greater risk of ER negative breast cancer. This may help explain the higher rates of this form of the disease among African Americans.
The team said that African American women tend to have more children, but breastfeeding is less common among this population.
"Our results, taken together with recent results from studies of triple negative and basal-like breast cancer, suggest that breastfeeding can reduce risk of developing the aggressive, difficult-to-treat breast cancers that disproportionately affect African American women," said Julie Palmer, who led the investigation.
The study followed 318 women for 14 years, tracking their medical records and surveying them about potential risk factors for breast cancer.
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