Breastfeeding and Breast Cancer Risk Reduction: Implications for Black Mothers

Am J Prev Med. 2017 Sep;53(3S1):S40-S46. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2017.04.024.


Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer and a leading cause of death from cancer among U.S. women. Studies have suggested that breastfeeding reduces breast cancer risk among parous women, and there is mounting evidence that this association may differ by subtype such that breastfeeding may be more protective of some invasive breast cancer types. The purpose of this review is to discuss breast cancer disparities in the context of breastfeeding and the implications for black mothers. Black women in the U.S. have lower rates of breastfeeding and nearly twice the rates of triple-negative breast cancer (an aggressive subtype) compared with white women. In addition to individual challenges to breastfeeding, black women may also differentially face contextual barriers such as a lack of social and cultural acceptance in their communities, inadequate support from the healthcare community, and unsupportive work environments. More work is needed to improve the social factors and policies that influence breastfeeding rates at a population level. Such efforts should give special consideration to the needs of black mothers to adequately address disparities in breastfeeding among this group and possibly help reduce breast cancer risk. Interventions such as peer counseling, hospital policy changes, breastfeeding-specific clinic appointments, group prenatal education, and enhanced breastfeeding programs have been shown to be effective in communities of color. A comprehensive approach that integrates interventions across multiple levels and settings may be most successful in helping mothers reach their breastfeeding goals and reducing disparities in breastfeeding and potentially breast cancer incidence.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Black or African American / psychology
  • Black or African American / statistics & numerical data*
  • Breast Feeding / ethnology
  • Breast Feeding / psychology
  • Breast Feeding / statistics & numerical data*
  • Counseling
  • Female
  • Health Status Disparities*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Mothers / psychology
  • Mothers / statistics & numerical data*
  • Racism / psychology
  • Racism / statistics & numerical data
  • Risk Reduction Behavior
  • Social Support
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Triple Negative Breast Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Triple Negative Breast Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • White People / psychology
  • White People / statistics & numerical data