Almost every parent knows by now that breast feeding is good for their child, but in a classic example of a win-win situation, new evidence further indicates that it is good for the mothers, as well. A recent study has found that breast feeding resulted in a lower incidence of breast cancer in pre-menopausal women who were considered high risk because of their family history.

There is a wealth of evidence that supports the idea that breast feeding is good for mothers. Women who breast feed have been found to be less prone to osteoporosis and ovarian cancer, as well as heart disease later in life. Furthermore, studies have shown these women also have a lower risk of contracting breast cancer.

While the current study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, did not necessarily confirm the overall benefit from breast feeding seen in the past, it did see a reduced risk for breast cancer in what doctors consider high-risk patients: women with a close relative (either their mother or a sister) who had breast cancer. These women who breast fed their babies had a 59% lower risk of pre-menopausal breast cancer, with their risk being closer to that of women with no family history of the disease.

Family history is considered a risk factor for breast cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, having one direct family member (mother or sister) with cancer doubles a woman’s risk for contracting the disease, and having two relatives increases her risk 5-fold. In light of this, the results of the study are striking, and some doctors have gone so far as to suggest that breast feeding may be just as effective as Tamoxifen, a commonly used therapy that interferes with the activity of estrogen.

Before drawing any concrete conclusions, however, there are a few issues to consider. Women who breast feed have been found to fall into certain demographic categories: they tend to be more highly educated and of a higher income bracket than women who solely bottle feed their babies. Because of this, they may make more healthy lifestyle choices (i.e., no smoking or drinking and a good diet) and may have better access to healthcare, thus muddling the breast feeding and cancer relationship.

Furthermore, according to the study, women who breast-fed exclusively or for longer periods of time saw no increased benefit. If breast feeding was in fact responsible for tempering a woman’s cancer risk, then you would expect to see a dose-response relationship, or more benefit from more breast feeding.

Even still, there is little argument for the overall benefits for breast feeding. Besides being convenient and economical, breast feeding is ecologically sound because there is less energy required and less waste. And besides being the best thing for your baby’s health, there is no better way for a mother to bond with their child. In light of all this, as well as the cancer fighting potential, what more could a mother ask for?