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Breastfeeding - Can It Lower The Risk Of Breast Cancer?

Dr. Sunny Jandyal 91% (77 ratings)
MD - General Medicine, D.M. Medical oncology
Oncologist, Delhi  •  6 years experience
Breastfeeding - Can It Lower The Risk Of Breast Cancer?

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

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 before her menopause.
  3. A study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute reported that women from African ancestry often develop an acute form of cancer known as the estrogen receptor-negative and 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?
Some researches suggest 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, the breast can block cancer.
There is the other factor of lifestyle changes. 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 breast feeding 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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