In 2007, the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) and the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) issued recommendations on diet (including breastfeeding), physical activity and weight management for cancer prevention. This study investigated whether adherence to these recommendations was related to risk of death.

This study included 378,864 participants (men and women) from nine European countries. A score was calculated using the WCRF/AICR recommendations and ranged from 0-7 for women, greater adherence to the WCRF/AICR recommendations (including breastfeeding) indicated higher scores.

These scores were used to calculate risk of death in relation to the 2007 WCRF/ACIR recommendations. Women with the highest score (6-7 of WCRF/AICR recommendations) had a lower likelihood of death compared to women with low scores (0-3).

Risk of death from all causes were lower in participants with higher WCRF/AICR scores.

Breastfeeding was inversely associated with the likelihood of death from both cancer (9% reduced risk) and circulatory disease (8% reduced risk).

The WCRF/AICR score is the first score derived from public health recommendations that includes breastfeeding as a protective factor for the mother. The authors conclude that following WCRF/AICR recommendations could significantly increase longevity.

Vergnaud AC, Romaguera D, Peeters, P et al. (2013) Adherence to the World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research guidelines and risk of death in Europe: results from the European Prospective Investigation into Nutrition and Cancer cohort study. Am J Clin Nutr. 97:1107–20.

WCRF UK on breastfeeding and cancer prevention

  • WCRF UK supports guidance from the World Health Organization and UNICEF that babies should be exclusively breastfed until they are six months old.
  • Evidence shows that breastfeeding reduces the risk of breast cancer in mothers and may help prevent excess weight gain in their children.
  • It is now well known that obesity is a strong risk factor for many cancers, including those of the bowel and breast (in postmenopausal women).
  • At the end of breastfeeding, the body gets rid of many cells in the breast, which may have DNA damage. This reduces the risk of breast cancer developing in the future.
  • Breastfeeding lowers the levels of some cancer-related hormones in the mother’s body, which can help reduce the risk of cancer in mothers.

Click here for WCRF UK's cancer prevention recommendations