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Over the past few years rheumatoid arthritis researchers have noticed decline in reporting of women with the disease.

In an article published in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases a study reports that researchers compared 136 women with rheumatoid arthritis with 544 women of a similar age without the disease. They found that those who had breast fed for longer were much less likely to get rheumatoid arthritis.

Women who had breastfed for 13 months or more were half as likely to get rheumatoid arthritis as those who had never breast fed. Those who had breast fed for one to 12 months were 25% less likely to get the disease.

The proportion of women breast feeding for more than six months has increased dramatically over the past 30 years. The authors concluded that it was difficult to say whether there was a connection between higher rates of breast feeding and a corresponding fall in the number of women affected by rheumatoid arthritis, but that the results of the study provided yet another reason why women should continue breast feeding.

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