How Breastfeeding Reduces Breast Cancer Risk

Breast Cancer
December 16, 2020
4 min read
How Breastfeeding Reduces Breast Cancer Risk

If breast cancer runs in your family, it is good to know a bit about the disease. Things like breast cancer awareness and regular screenings can help.  There is something else you can do to lower your breast cancer risk: breastfeed. Here is why breastfeeding can prevent you from getting cancer in some cases.

How Breastfeeding Lowers Breast Cancer Risk

While a woman is pregnant and soon after giving birth, hormonal changes cause a pause in her monthly period. Breastfeeding extends these hormonal changes. As a result, women who breastfeed aren’t exposed to as many hormones over their lifetimes as women who don’t. Since overexposure to estrogen and other hormones is linked to breast cancer risk, breastfeeding lowers breast cancer risk. This benefit is maximized if women breastfeed their babies for at least one year.  

Another reason that breastfeeding is linked to breast cancer risk reduction is that women generally watch their diet more while breastfeeding. Since they are eating more nutritious foods and not smoking or drinking, breastfeeding mothers lead healthier lives overall. This lifestyle lowers breast cancer risk.

Other Benefits of Breastfeeding

Ideally, infants should be exclusively breastfed from birth until around six months old. They can continue to consume breast milk along with solid foods until they area year old or even older. This is important to the overall health of the baby and should be done whenever possible.

The benefits of breastfeeding for the child are fairly well known. Babies who are breastfed have a lower risk for asthma, obesity, type 1 diabetes, ear and respiratory infections, sudden infant death syndrome, and gastrointestinal infections like diarrhea and vomiting. 

What are less well known are the benefits of breastfeeding for mothers. Not only does it lower breast cancer risk, but breastfeeding also lowers the risk of ovarian cancer. Mothers who breastfeed are less likely to develop high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.

Other Ways to Lower Breast Cancer Risk

Some women may be unable to breastfeed or may not have children. There are still ways they can lower their breast cancer risk. Living a healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise, healthy and nutritious foods, and maintaining a healthy weight is beneficial in disease prevention in general.  

Limiting alcohol intake can also help reduce breast cancer risk. Never smoking is a game-changer when it comes to preventing illness. If you do smoke, quit as soon as possible. Stay on top of breast cancer awareness, especially if your family history puts you at high risk for the disease.

Breastfeeding and Breast Cancer

If you have already had breast cancer, can you still breastfeed your new baby? This depends on what type of treatment you had done. Women who have had a double mastectomy can no longer breastfeed. Those who just had surgery on one breast or went through chemotherapy can sometimes use the unaffected breast to feed their child. Formula supplementing or a breast milk donor may be necessary depending on your situation. Talk to your doctor if you have had breast cancer and are thinking about breastfeeding.

Need a Doctor?

Whether you need breast cancer screenings like mammograms, breast surgery, or just a new family doctor, BASS Medical Group is here for you. They have more than 200 locations and medical professionals that specialize in everything from breast surgery to family medicine to obstetrics and gynecology. Call (925)350-4044 to learn more or schedule an appointment.