Breast Feeding Shown to Reduce Breast Cancer



The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) released a report August 2017 with findings showing breastfeeding decreases risk of breast cancer in both mother and child. While the exact mechanisms at play are unknown, experts attribute the link between breastfeeding and decreased breast cancer risk to a few key factors.

The Link Between Breastfeeding and Breast Cancer

Breastfeeding lowers your risk of pre- and post-menopausal breast cancer in several different ways.

Breastfeeding tends to induce hormonal fluctuations during lactation that delay regular menses. This is beneficial in that it reduces a breastfeeding woman’s exposure to hormones like estrogen that have been linked to increased breast cancer risk.

When you are pregnant and breastfeeding, you shed breast tissues. This natural process may help clear DNA-damaged cells from the body and encourage the growth of healthy new cells.

Research also shows that breastfeeding may help lower your risk of ovarian cancer by suppressing ovulation. The less you ovulate, the less you are exposed to estrogen and abnormal cells with the predilection to become cancerous over time. The Collaborative Group on Hormonal Factors in Breast Cancer conducted a study that showed that for every 12 months a woman breastfeeds, cancer risk lowers by 4.3% compared to mothers who don’t breastfeed.

Their conclusion from analyzing data from 47 epidemiological studies in 30 countries?

“The longer women breast feed the more they are protected against breast cancer. The lack of or short lifetime duration of breastfeeding typical of women in developed countries makes a major contribution to the high incidence of breast cancer in these countries.”

Which brings up the question: How long should I breast feed? 

Time Matters 

Both the AICR and the World Health Organization (WHO) recommend breastfeeding for at least 6 months, but research shows the longer you breastfeed, the lower your risk for breast cancer.

One study showed that for every 5-month increment a new mom breastfed, her breast cancer risk declined by 2%.

Research also shows that breastfeeding decreases risk of ovarian cancer. A study from Australian researchers revealed that women who breastfed for 13 or more months were 63% less likely to develop ovarian cancer than were woman who breastfed for less than 7 months. The research also indicated that when women breastfed more than one child for over 31 months, ovarian cancer risk was lowered by 91% compared to women who breastfed for less than 10 months.

Breastfeeding Also Protects Your Child

Studies show that breastfed children tend to be less prone to obesity throughout their lives, which helps protect them from obesity-related cancers such as pancreatic cancer, post-menopausal breast cancer, endometrial cancer, esophageal cancer, rectal cancer, and kidney cancers.

When you breastfeed, the antibodies in your breast milk are passed to your child, which helps to strengthen his or her immune system. A stronger immune system translates to fewer ear infections, and stronger respiratory and digestive systems. Research also suggests that the longer you breastfeed, the less likely your child is to develop allergies.