Surprising connection in the rising trend of colorectal cancer risk: mother's milk

October 22, 2023

A concerning trend of rising colorectal cancer risk is emerging, particularly among individuals under the age of 70, as revealed by a recent study. The shift was first observed in the mid-1990s, coinciding with the introduction of routine screening for those born in the 1950s. Since then, the incidence has steadily increased by approximately 2 percent annually. This means that someone born in 1990 now faces a fourfold higher risk of developing colorectal cancer compared to someone born in 1950. 

New research by Kimmie Ng, Associate Chief of the Division of Gastrointestinal Oncology at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, suggests a surprising connection: mother's milk. Analyzing data from 160,000 women aged 27 to 93, the study found that those breastfed as infants had a 23 percent higher risk of developing colorectal cancer as adults. More alarmingly, a subset within this cohort exhibited a 40 percent increased risk of developing high-risk colorectal cancer before turning 55.

The study's authors caution that further research is necessary, emphasizing that their analysis should not discourage mothers from breastfeeding. Medical experts endorse breast milk as the optimal nutritional source for most infants, highlighting its immune-boosting benefits and its potential to reduce the risk of various illnesses and diseases in both babies and mothers.