Can Breastfeeding Prevent Breast Cancer?
Breastfeeding can offer your baby a healthy start, but did you know that the practice is busting with benefits for mom too?
The benefits of breastfeeding for baby are well known. Fewer infections and lower risk of diabetes, asthma and childhood obesity are just a few, but in addition to all the perks for your little one, there are also a wealth of health benefits for you. Breastfeeding lowers the rate of postpartum depression, helps to achieve faster weight loss and may even lower your risk for developing breast cancer.
Clinical studies looking at this topic over the past 20 years have consistently shown a link between breastfeeding and a lowered risk of pre- and post-menopausal breast cancer. There are a few reasons for this link. Women who breastfeed experience a change in hormones that can delay their menstrual cycles. This reduces a woman’s lifetime exposure to the hormone estrogen, which can stimulate cancer cell growth. Pregnancy and breastfeeding also cause breast tissue to shed. This shedding can eliminate damaged cells that may cause cancer. A landmark study published in 2002 looked at 50,000 cases of breast cancer and concluded that the risk of breast cancer was decreased by 4.3% for every 12 months a woman breastfeeds. Another review in 2013 determined that if a woman breastfed longer than 12 months total during their lifetime, they had a 28% lower risk of developing breast cancer.
However, while the benefits of breastfeeding for both mom and baby are plenty, it’s often hard to understand cause and effect in any cancer type and there are a number of risk factors associated with breast cancer. There are women who breastfeed that do get breast cancer and women who don’t breastfeed who never develop cancer. Above all, the best call you can make for yourself, your child and your lifestyle is to make informed, healthy decisions with the help of your doctor.
Learn more about the prevention and early detection of breast cancer at Ochsner.