Breastfeeding is one of the most natural and beneficial ways to nourish a newborn baby. Not only does it provide essential nutrients and immune protection for the baby, but it also offers many health benefits for the mother. One of the most significant benefits is its ability to reduce the risk of breast cancer.
Cancer that develops in the breast tissue is known as breast cancer. Men and women can both get it. Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in women worldwide, with an estimated 2.3 million new cases diagnosed in 2020. Breastfeeding has been shown to reduce the risk of breast cancer in women, and the longer a woman breastfeeds, the greater the protective effect.
Benefits of breastfeeding for breast cancer
Breastfeeding has several mechanisms that can reduce the risk of breast cancer. Firstly, it reduces the number of menstrual cycles a woman has over her lifetime. Menstruation stimulates the breast tissue, which can lead to the growth of abnormal cells that can eventually become cancerous. By reducing the number of menstrual cycles a woman has, breastfeeding reduces the amount of breast tissue exposed to these cancer-promoting hormones.
Secondly, breastfeeding can lead to changes in the breast tissue that make it less susceptible to cancer. During lactation, the breast tissue undergoes a process called involution, where the milk-producing cells are replaced by fat cells. This process can remove any abnormal cells that may have developed during the menstrual cycle, reducing the risk of breast cancer.
Thirdly, breastfeeding can reduce the amount of oestrogen in a woman’s body. Oestrogen is a hormone that promotes the growth of breast tissue, and high levels of oestrogen have been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer. By reducing oestrogen levels, breastfeeding can help to prevent the growth of cancerous cells in the breast tissue.
The protective effect of breastfeeding on breast cancer risk has been demonstrated in numerous studies. One study found that breastfeeding for at least six months reduced the risk of breast cancer by 5 percent compared to women who did not breastfeed. Another study found that breastfeeding for 12 months or more reduced the risk of breast cancer by up to 20 percent. The protective effect appears to be greatest for women who breastfeed for longer periods and those who breastfeed more than one child.
Other benefits of breastfeeding for mothers and baby
Breastfeeding also offers many other health benefits for both mother and baby. Breast milk contains antibodies that can protect the baby from infections and illnesses, and it is easily digestible, providing all the nutrients a baby needs in the first six months of life. Breastfeeding can also reduce the risk of childhood obesity and improve cognitive development in children.
Breastfeeding has been shown to increase bone density, minimise type 2 diabetes risk, and lessen postpartum depression in mothers. It is also convenient and cost-effective, as breast milk is always available and does not require any preparation or equipment.
In conclusion, breastfeeding is one of the most beneficial things a mother can do for her baby’s health and her own health. Women who breastfeed for longer periods have a greater protective effect. With all the benefits that breastfeeding offers, it is no wonder that it is recommended as the best way to feed a baby at least for the first six months of life.