Does breastfeeding increase or decrease the risk of breast cancer?

Published: Sep 20, 2023 6:27 PM IST

Breastfeeding, the process of producing and providing breast milk to infants, has enormous significance for a child’s development and overall well-being. Yes, it leads to a lot of changes in your breasts, but it doesn’t necessarily lead to health problems. Did you know that one in eight people will develop a form of breast cancer in their lifetime? Sure, breastfeeding or pumping can lead to changes in your breasts, but does it increase your risk of developing cancer? Well, let’s find out!

Benefits of breastfeeding for mother and baby

Breast milk not only contains antibodies that boost a baby’s immune system, but also plays a crucial role in promoting healthy gut microbiota. These beneficial bacteria promote the digestion and absorption of nutrients while protecting against harmful pathogens. In addition to these physical benefits, breastfeeding promotes a strong emotional bond between mother and baby. 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

In addition, the hormonal exchange during breastfeeding causes the release of oxytocin in both mother and baby, strengthening feelings of love, trust and attachment. A large number of women are assisted by a lactation consultant who guides them through their breastfeeding journey. But some women will also hesitate because of the myths surrounding breastfeeding.

Also read: 8 common breastfeeding myths that you should stop believing

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

It is a common misconception that breastfeeding can increase the risk of malignancy in women. However, recent studies have shown that this belief is not only unfounded, but that breastfeeding even has a protective effect against certain types of cancer. An example of this is breast cancer itself. Numerous studies have consistently shown that breastfeeding reduces the risk of developing breast cancer in women, especially if they breastfeed for extended periods of time. Breastfeeding for two years reduces the risk of breast cancer by 1 percent, according to a study published in the journal Cancer Medicine.

In addition, breastfeeding has also been shown to protect against ovarian and endometrial cancer. Breastfeeding helps suppress ovulation by inhibiting the release of estrogen, which in turn reduces exposure to hormones linked to these cancers. Additionally, it has been suggested that breastfeeding helps shed cells from the breast ducts and ovaries more quickly, minimizing the chance of mutant cells developing and forming tumors.

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 both mothers and infants. By dispelling misconceptions surrounding breastfeeding and malignancies, we can educate women 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 nature’s gift for mothers to prevent problems like cancer, and it is also a blessing for the child. So you should not panic and contact the doctor if he has any questions.

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