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Breastfeeding - Can It Lower The Risk Of Breast Cancer?

Reviewed by
MBBS, MS - General Surgery, Fellowship in Surgical Oncology
Surgical Oncology, Ranchi  •  12 years experience
Breastfeeding - Can It Lower The Risk Of Breast Cancer?

Women love the fact that breastfeeding can safeguard their children from general illnesses such as cold and fever. Not to forget, breastfeeding can help him/her to increase immunity and stay away from major diseases However, there is a bigger pie to cheer about. It has been found that breastfeeding can lower the risk of breast cancer in women as well. 

Facts from major studies:

  1. A study published in the Lancet, 2002 showed that women who breastfeed for 12 months at a stretch can reduce the chances of breast cancer by a good 4.3 percent compared to the ones who did not breastfeed. The study was performed on over 1,50,000 women and brought enough substance to the theory.

  2. A study conducted on 60,000 women and published in the Archives of Internal Medicine reported that a woman who has a family history of breast cancer can mitigate the risk of breast cancer, if she breastfed.

  3. A study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute reported that women from African ancestry often develop a form of cancer known as the estrogen receptor-negative/ triple-negative. Breastfeeding can significantly hedge the risk of developing this form of breast cancer.

  4. A collaborative study published in Annals of Oncology, a famous journal, reported that the chances of developing hormone-receptor negative breast cancer can be negated by 20 percent if a woman breastfed before her menopause.

How does breastfeeding reduce the risk of cancer?
Research suggests that women who breastfeed get fewer menstrual cycle compared to the ones who do not. This means low exposure to estrogen for breastfeeding women. It is a common knowledge that estrogen can fuel breast cancer. There is a second theory that suggests that breastfeeding makes the cells of the breasts more resistive to mutation. Therefore reduce the risk of breast cancer.
There is the other factor of lifestyle changes associated with when a woman is breastfeeding. Women tend to do away with drinking, smoking, eating junk food, and leading an undisciplined life. Once these are given up and replaced with healthy lifestyle practices, the chances of breast cancer automatically come down.

How long should one breastfeed to refrain from breast cancer?
There is no concrete answer to this question. Most studies show that longer the duration of breastfeeding, lower the chances of breast cancer. But, in general, a year of breastfeeding is a safe number and can reduce the chance of breast cancer by almost 20 percent, as revealed by many studies. If, however, a woman fails to breastfeed, there is no need to stress. A healthy lifestyle can go a long way in surviving breast cancer.

In case you have a concern or query you can always consult an expert & get answers to your questions!
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