11/20/2015 01:48 pm ET Updated Nov 20, 2016

Breastfeeding Can Help Lower the Rising Risk of Breast Cancer in African-American Women

An alarming new report from the American Cancer Society (ACS) shows that African-American women are now just as likely as white women to be diagnosed with breast cancer. We've known for some time that African-American women are more likely than all other ethnicities to be diagnosed with breast cancer at a younger age and with disease that is more advanced stage. African-American women are also much more likely to die from breast cancer than any other group of women.

The new data draw more attention to the already serious breast cancer situation for African-American women. As a physician, I understand the many barriers in the African American community and how critical it is to have access to education about risk factors and the support necessary to reduce these risks.

The good news: There are many powerful steps African-American women can take to stop and reverse the rising breast cancer risk. Maintaining a healthy weight and getting regular exercise are well-known risk-reducing steps.

For those African-American women who are premenopausal and considering having children, there is another important risk-reducing step: Breastfeeding can help reduce the risk of breast cancer, including the most aggressive types of breast cancer for which treatment options are limited.

The combination of maintaining a healthy weight, getting regular exercise, and -- if possible -- breastfeeding can help African-American women lower their risk of breast cancer and provide significant protection against the most aggressive forms of the disease. These steps don't just apply to African-American women. The same steps will help all women reduce their lifetime risk of developing this devastating disease.