Epidemiology of Breastfeeding

Advances and Multidisciplinary Applications
  • Rafael Pérez-Escamilla
  • M. Lourdes Guerrero
Part of the Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology book series (AEMB, volume 554)


Advancing understanding of the importance of breastfeeding (BF) has required advances in application of epidemiologic methods to BF research. This chapter considers, in the context of BF epidemiology, how different research designs complement each other to establish firmer causal inferences, the need for multidisciplinary collaborations, and the application of powerful analytical methods to strengthen epidemiologic studies. A recent global meta-analysis of 47 studies documenting the inverse association between lifetime BF duration and breast cancer risk illustrates the value of longitudinal (cohort) studies to establish the temporal sequence of events and to rule out differential recall biases that can threaten the internal validity of case-control studies. The discovery of the transmission of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) via human milk has led epidemiologists to provide important hypotheses to be tested at the molecular and cellular level and in turn test hypotheses generated in laboratory studies. Application of powerful statistical methods to BF epidemiology has helped strengthen causal inferences. A retrospective analysis of the 1976–1977 Malaysian Family Life Survey found interactive multivariate statistical models to better understand how different socioeconomic and cultural contexts modify the influence of BF on child health. Further, a study conducted in Cebu City, Philippines, demonstrated how structural equation models can be used to test the pathways through which proximate (e.g., BF) and distal (e.g., socioeconomic status) determinants affect child health after adjusting for reverse causality (i.e., child health influencing maternal BF choice). For ethical reasons, BF randomized controlled trials (RCTs) have seldom been conducted. Recent RCTs examining the link between BF peer counseling and BF outcomes in diverse settings provides a unique opportunity to firmly establish the causal inferences regarding BF and the prevention of diarrheal diseases. The value of rapid assessment anthropologic methods to guide development of peer counseling interventions subsequently tested through RCTs is presented. This chapter also illustrates how Cox regression and logistic regression can be applied to BF research.


Human Immunodeficiency Virus Breast Cancer Risk Human Milk Reverse Causality Survey Wave 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rafael Pérez-Escamilla
    • 1
  • M. Lourdes Guerrero
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Nutritional SciencesUniversity of ConnecticutStorrsUSA
  2. 2.Department of Infectious DiseasesNational Institute of Medical Sciences & NutritionMexico CityMexico

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