No one questions the advantages of breastfeeding the baby. Breast milk provides your child's complete nutritional needs and protects him from illnesses. But how many of you know of the protective effects of breastfeeding against developing breast cancer?
Women who nurse their baby for at least six months may lower their risk for the aggressive triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) by 87 percent. Women who breastfeed longer—up to a year or more—could have a 37-percent less risk for BRCA1 mutation cancer risk. Prolonged breastfeeding (up to two years and beyond) also lowers the odds of cancer coming back after successful treatment.
Experts suggest this has to do with the permanent changes the breast undergoes during the pregnancy-lactation cycle, which may play a role in breast cancer risks. Researchers also suggest that since breastfeeding can delay the onset of menstruation after giving birth, a woman's body is exposed to less estrogen, the hormone which, in some cases, may fuel cancer growth.
Apart from lowering breast cancer risk, nursing also helps reduce a mom's chances of developing ovarian cancer, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes.
However, breastfeeding doesn't automatically mean you won't get breast cancer at all. The link between breastfeeding and breast cancer is not a cause-and-effect one. But it's worth knowing it could make a difference when you decide to breastfeed, and for how long.
A study in the U.S., published in Breastfeeding Medicine, surveyed more than 700 women who have given birth at least once. Of the 667 participants who breastfed their babies, only 407 women knew about the link between breastfeeding and breast cancer risk reduction before their most recent childbirth.
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The moms who didn't know about this breastfeeding perk revealed they would have soldiered through the challenges and chosen to nurse their baby longer had they known that breastfeeding reduces their risks. Many of those who knew of the link didn't get the information from their doctor.
The decision to breastfeed, which involves adding 500 calories in a new mom's daily intake to support milk production, is a woman's choice. Talk to your doctor about it to make an informed decision.