Breastfeeding as a preventative

Diagnosing and treating breast cancer

Not all doctors agree with me, but I believe that breast milk as the sole food—-no bottles and no solid foods for five to six months-—helps prevent breast cancer. If a mother nurses three or more babies in this fashion, as do many members of La Leche League, her chances of developing breast cancer are very small. Interestingly enough, as a group, nuns have the greatest amount of breast cancer.

There is conflicting scientific information on this question. scientists and others have even suggested that breast feeding may be cancer—producing. This is based on what are, in my opinion, some very tenuous electron microscope studies performed in the Far East and else- where. Some American investigators have severely criticized this work. The burden of proof seems to rest on those who associate breast cancer with baby's historical prime source of nutrition.


A biologist from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Maurice S. Fox, Ph.D., has published (Journal of the American Medical Association, February 2, 1979) a landmark article on the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer which deserves the widest publicity. On the basis of care- ful studies carried out at the Harvard School of Public Health, Dr. Fox reaches the following conclusions:

l) Radical mastectomy offers no greater benefit than simple mastec- tomy followed by x—ray therapy.

2) The incidence of diagnosed breast cancer showed an l8 per cent increase between 1935 and l965, and a 50 per cent increase between 1965 and 1975. Yet the mortality rate in breast cancer has remained unchanged for at least the past 40 years.

3) There appear to be two almost equally divided basic classes of women with breast cancer; about 40 per cent die regardless of the treat- ment, and the other 60 per cent show a mortality rate little different from that of women without cancer.

4) Some cancers appear malignant under the microscope but, as far as the patient is concerned, behave in a relatively benign fashion.

5) Although nearly all patients with breast cancer are treated one way or another, those who die rapidly show a mortality rate similar to untreated patients in the nineteenth century.

6) Careful studies of groups of women screened for breast cancer vs. similar groups who went unscreened show that the reduction in breast cancer mortality in the first group is not substantially different from the reduction in general mortality exhibited by that group. Furthermore, the group that refused to be screened experienced both a lower incidence of breast cancer and a substantially lower mortality from breast cancer.

7) The striking acceleration of the incidence of diagnosed breast cancer, beginning around 1965, presumably reflects the increasing detec- tion of early disease. Nevertheless, there is no evidence of benefit of this early detection in terms of breast cancer mortality, even l0 years later.

8) "It remains possible that much of the occult or early disease detected by screening would never manifest itself as malignant disease in a normal lifetime," says Dr. Fox. He continues, "My interpretation of the existing evidence raises questions regarding the wisdom of routine periodic surveys of asymptomatic women."

Dr. Fox expressed his puzzlement as to why so many physicians con- tinue to select the more radical forms of intervention. I must confess to being similarly puzzled during the last two decades, often having thought that the reason women's breasts are removed so frequently lies