Does breastfeeding increase or decrease the risk of breast cancer?

Published: September 20, 2023, 6:27 p.m. IST

Breastfeeding, the process of producing and providing breast milk to infants, is of immense importance to a child’s development and overall well-being. Yes, it causes many changes to your breasts, but it doesn’t necessarily lead to health problems. Did you know that approximately one in eight people will develop some type of breast cancer in their lifetime? Sure, breastfeeding or expressing breast milk can cause changes to your breast, but does it increase your risk of developing cancer? Well, let’s find out!

Benefits of breastfeeding for mother and baby

Not only does breast milk contain antibodies that strengthen the infant’s immune system, but it also plays a crucial role in promoting a healthy gut microbiota. These beneficial bacteria aid digestion and absorption of nutrients while protecting against harmful pathogens. In addition to these physical benefits, lactation promotes a strong emotional bond between mother and baby. The act of breastfeeding creates moments of intimacy, nurturing touch, and eye contact that promote bonding and emotional security.

Breastfeeding can help reduce the risk of breast cancer. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

Additionally, the hormonal exchange during breastfeeding triggers the release of oxytocin in both mother and baby, strengthening feelings of love, trust and attachment. Many women hire a lactation expert to guide them through their breastfeeding journey. But some women will also be hesitant because of the myths surrounding breastfeeding.

Read also: 8 Common Breastfeeding Myths You Should Stop Believing

Breastfeeding does not increase the risk of cancer, it reduces it!

There is a common misconception that breastfeeding can increase the risk of cancer in women. However, recent studies have shown that not only is this belief unfounded, but that breastfeeding actually has a protective effect against certain types of cancer. One such example is breast cancer itself. Many studies have consistently shown that breastfeeding reduces the risk of developing breast cancer in women, especially if they breastfeed for a longer duration. Breastfeeding for 2 years reduces the risk of breast cancer by 1%, according to a study published in the journal Cancer Medicine.

Additionally, breastfeeding has also been shown to provide protection against ovarian and endometrial cancers. The act of breastfeeding helps suppress ovulation by inhibiting the release of estrogen, which reduces exposure to hormones linked to these cancers. Additionally, it has been suggested that lactation helps eliminate cells from the mammary ducts and ovaries more quickly, thereby minimizing the risk of mutant cells developing and tumor formation.

risk of breast cancer
Breastfeeding does not increase the risk of breast cancer. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

The last word

Breastfeeding can have significant health benefits for mothers and infants. By dispelling misconceptions about breastfeeding and cancers, we can empower women with knowledge and encourage them to make informed decisions about their own health. Breastfeeding not only nourishes babies, but also provides mothers with long-term protective effects against various forms of cancer. So, breastfeeding is a natural gift given to mothers to avoid problems such as cancer, and it is also a boon for the child. So you should not panic and talk to the doctor in case he has any questions.

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