breastfeeding and breast cancer

Breastfeeding your Breast Cancer Chances Down 3

Speaking of fighting breast cancer the ‘green’ natural way, my good friend and super-lactating friend, Erin, kindly requested I share some information about how breastfeeding can help lower the risk of breast cancer. Being a lactator myself and being a woman who wants to do whatever I possibly can to reduce my and other women’s chances of breast cancer, I was more than happy to share some information on that.

However, also being a lactating mom with a two-year old who still doesn’t sleep on his own through the night, my time and energy is limited so instead of conducting my own research I Googled 3 different articles that provide their own research studies or sources.

This first article, from WebMD, provides good information about how breastfeeding may play a part in breast cancer risks.

  • “Women with a family history of breast cancer who have ever breastfed reduce their risk of getting premenopausal breast cancer by nearly 60%, according to a new study.”
  • “Overall, in the whole group of women we studied, women who had breastfed were 25% less likely to develop premenopausal breast cancer than women who had never breastfed.”
  • “Among those with a family history, those who had breastfed had a 59% reduced risk for premenopausal breast cancer compared to those who never breastfed.”
  • “The breastfeeding did not have to be exclusive breastfeeding, without formula use.”
  • “The protective effect began with three months of breastfeeding…That’s three months total, she says, not just for a single child. So a mother may have breastfed two children for a month and a half each and gotten the benefit, for instance.”
  • “Even so, she calls the association “exciting” because breastfeeding is an action women can take to reduce their breast cancer risk, while many other risk factors — such as having a family history — are not modifiable.”

And if you can also find some interesting studies by searching for “breastfeeding and breast cancer” at PubMed. Like this one. It’s in spanish but they basically found… “a significant correlation (p = 0.001) between the age of cancer diagnosis, length of breastfeeding, and the existence of personal and family history for cancer.”

La Leche League International also is a great place to go for information and support for breastfeeding. They have a good article about a study in the Lancet showing that increased duration of breastfeeding decreases the risk of breast cancer. Here are some stats from that:

  • “The reanalysis of data from 47 epidemiological studies in 30 countries compared over 50,000 women who had breast cancer with a control of 96,000 women who did not have the disease.”
  • “Increasing the duration of breastfeeding of each child for only six months could prevent an estimated 25,000 cases of breast cancer each year.”
  • “In addition, if each child were breastfed for an additional twelve months, approximately 50,000 cases could be prevented annually in Western populations where breast cancer is most prevalent.”
  • “68 percent of mothers in US hospitals initiate breastfeeding.”
  • “Only 31 percent are still breastfeeding at six months of age.”

Ok so those are some pretty great stats for women who have breastfed their babies, even for a little bit, especially for those with a family history of breast cancer. Cancer happens when there is a rapid overgrowth or excess of dead cells that never were released. It’s like a floor or wall that had a major water leak but was never cleaned up well enough and so mold started to grow and it just kept growing until there was a terrible mess of uncontrollable mold. I know that’s not a perfect analogy but that’s how I personally think of it. I understand that eating well and following other prevention tips will not guarantee a woman will not have breast cancer, but it won’t hurt to do whatever we can to help our bodies get rid of dead or diseased cells and toxins to stay healthy and well.

It’s funny, though, with all the focus on breast detection and self-examinations, and awareness about breast cancer, sometimes it seems like we’ve forgotten about the breasts and what they are made to do—feed life-sustaining liquid gold awesome yummylicious germ-fighting milk into our babies tummies. The stats and studies, like the ones shared above, seem to indicate that something might be going wrong in a woman’s body when she becomes pregnant and her breasts’ milk ducts produce milk, but then for whatever reason don’t actually get to release it and give it to the baby the same body that created the milk also grew. And, conversely, there may be something really great going on in a woman’s body when she is able to breastfeed her babies and release all that milky goodness into another human being.

So if you are currently breastfeeding, have breastfed, or are pregnant and thinking of breastfeeding–go you! All those long breastfeeding sessions, all those times you had to stop what you were doing to sit and nurse for the upteenth time, all those times you had to get up at night to lift your shirt up one more time, all those times of cracked and bleeding nipples, of breast infections and mastitis, of walking around the house topless while praying Hail Mary’s and warning your husband never to touch your breasts again as long as he lives….you can smile and be happy to know that it was all worth it–not just for your baby, but even for you too!


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