The protective relationship between breastfeeding and the risk of developing breast cancer is well documented. To be able to communicate the protective effect to patients the existing evidence needs to be understood by healthcare providers.
As part of their SSC component and the CanRisk project, clinical students Tom Weatherby and Stephen Woodmansey worked with Dr Fiona Walter and Dr Chantal Babb de Villiers on reviewing the literature to understand more about this relationship.
They found that details on how the data were captured was absent from most relevant literature. Instead of reporting the duration of breastfeeding (as a continuous variable), most simply reported a binary (yes/ no) for breastfeeding.
With the advent of personalised medicine, more detailed cancer risk calculations will need to include information about the duration of breastfeeding. Therefore, a more rigorous, standardised approach would better equip clinicians to collect data from patients – for breastfeeding this could be individual breastfeeding history per child.
Tom and Stephen presented their findings at the recent 2017 Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) conference, where they also interviewed the College Chair, Prof Helen Stokes-Lampard.