does breastfeeding reduce breast cancer risk

No food can be better than mother’s milk for a baby! Breast milk contains all the nutrition a child needs and there can be no substitute for it. However, the trend nowadays among women is that they don’t breastfeed their babies for as long as they should. It is important for them to be made aware of the benefits of breastfeeding, not only for their bundles of joy, but for their own health in the long run.

Benefits of Breastfeeding

Research has proven that women who breastfeed for more than 12 months are at a reduced risk of getting breast cancer. The reasons being:

  1. Most women have fewer menstrual cycles while they are lactating. Hence, this ensures lower levels of oestrogen in the body.

  2. While making milk, the breast cells’ ability to act abnormally becomes restricted.

  3. Women who are breastfeeding have a better and healthier lifestyle during this time.

It has also been noted that women who were non-smokers and have breastfed for more than 6 months were at a lower risk of breast cancer than those who were also non-smokers but were breastfed for a very short amount of time, or didn’t breastfeed at all. Smoking puts women at a higher risk of being infected with cancer whether they breastfeed or not.

Breastfeeding And Breast Cancer Facts

1. Breastfeeding is one of the factors that can be associated with a ‘convincing decreased risk’ of breast cancer in women.

2. Women who breastfeed for over a year are at a 28% less risk of contracting the disease. For women who have a history of breast cancer in their family, can reduce the risk of pre-menopausal breast cancer by 59%.

3. Some scientists are of the belief that in countries where women have only one child or no children, are more prone to breast cancer.

4. It is also suggested that using soy-based formulas or avoiding breastfeeding is the reason baby girls are at a higher risk of hormone-fuelled breast cancer later in life.

How Are The Two Linked?

The simplest explanation that links the two is that women who breastfeed, have fewer menstrual cycles. This reduces the amount of oestrogen that is produced in the body. This is beneficial for women, as oestrogen can increase the risk of certain kinds of breast cancers. Another theory suggests that breastfeeding makes the cells more resistant to mutations that can also cause cancer.

Research has shown that the risk of breast cancer was reduced in women by 4.3%, for every 12 months of breastfeeding, in comparison to women who hardly breastfed or did not breastfeed at all. This was done by analysing the lifestyles of over 1,50,000 women.

Some Statistics

According to statistics, the average age at breast cancer was diagnosed in women:

- 57 years, in 364 women who never had children, or breastfed only for 3 months

- 55 years, in 109 women who breastfed between 3 to 6 months only

- Over 65 years in only 31 women who breastfed for over 6 months

Health Benefits of Breastfeeding For Children  

It is advised that mothers should breastfeed for at least 6 months. Breastfeeding not only reduces chances of breast cancer in women, it lowers the child’s risk of developing allergies, ear or lung infections and digestive system-related problems. It may also help to an extent in ensuring that the child does not become obese later on in life. Obesity, as we all know, is linked to various diseases. It is also said that a girl child, if breastfed for a long period of time, can avert the risk of developing breast or other forms of cancer.

Breastfeeding And Ovarian Cancer

Another study discovered that women who breastfed for more than 13 months were at a 63% lower risk of developing ovarian cancer as well, in comparison to women who breastfed for less than 7 months. Hence, women who breastfed for longer, had a much lower chance of contracting cancer than those who hardly breastfed or did not breastfeed at all. It helps in the prevention of ovarian cancer because lactation delays ovulation. When there is less ovulation, the risk of cell mutation which can cause cancer is also reduced.

It is also said that breastfeeding reduces the risk of both cervical and endometrial cancer in women.

Hence, the benefits of breastfeeding are many and cannot be understated. Not only does it reduce the risk of breast cancer in women, it also ensures that the child is healthy in the long run. So, don’t shy away from breastfeeding your children – it’s going to aid both of you later in life! And to avoid the risk of cancer, apart from breastfeeding, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, eating the right kinds of food, reducing smoking and alcohol consumption, and exercising regularly will go a long way.