World Breastfeeding Week 2022 1st – 7th August 2022
You may have heard that breastfeeding helps to prevent cancer but the exact reasons for this aren’t fully understood. It is true that breast cancer incidences are lower among women who breastfeed, but the statistics vary considerably from study to study. Some research suggests a 4.3% reduced risk of breast cancer for every 12 months of feeding, while another large review found a 14% reduced risk.
It is generally understood that breastfeeding can result in fewer menstrual cycles which leads to lower levels of oestrogen in a woman’s body. Oestrogen can cause some breast cancers to grow so if levels are lower, there is less chance of this. It is also agreed by researchers that the protection is maximised if a woman breastfeeds for more than a year (this can be in total, with more than one child). Breastfeeding may also protect breast tissue since it causes the shedding of cells which may help remove cells with potential DNA damage. It’s also thought that breastfeeding makes breast cells more resistant to mutations later on.
However, there are other considerations which may attribute to the reduction in risk since women who breastfeed are more likely to follow a healthy lifestyle while doing so. Women tend to eat healthier, drink less alcohol and cut out smoking during breastfeeding so these factors may play a part in the reduction of risk.
The bottom line is that if you can breastfeed, do it and treasure those precious times with your baby. But if you can’t breastfeed then don’t worry. It cannot be reiterated enough that the two most important things you can do to cut your risk of breast cancer are keeping a healthy weight and exercising regularly. These two lifestyle choices can prevent breast cancer more than anything else.