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I was recently talking to someone about breast cancer awareness month which is happening right now, and it came up that breastfeeding reduces the risk of breast cancer. Okay, I have heard this but I never gave it much thought. We are always hearing about all the benefits of breastfeeding for our babies but I do not give much thought to the benefits for mom. I have explored it a little bit in the past and thought I would look into it again. This time specifically in relation to breast cancer risk.
Besides reducing your risk of breast cancer breastfeeding also benefits the mother by reducing the risk of postpartum depression, ovarian cancer and type 2 diabetes.
So how does breastfeeding help reduce your breast cancer risk?
It seems that research has shown that a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer is related to her exposure to the hormones produced by the ovaries including estrogen and progesterone.
When we are pregnant and breastfeeding our number of menstrual cycles are lowered which leads to less hormone exposure over time.
It is also thought that using breast cells to make milk keeps them from being able to change or differentiate.
Another theory is that we are healthier while breastfeeding, reducing our alcohol intake and not smoking. We may be eating healthier.
It seems the data is sparse, but it has been shown that breastfeeding reduces the risk. So while we may not know exactly how it reduces the risk it certainly is another great benefit to breastfeeding!
How much is the risk of breast cancer reduced?
The longer you breastfeed the more benefit there appears to be. This makes me feel good since I have already been breastfeeding for a combined time of over 3 years!
Mothers who breastfed for a combined total of at least one year were slightly less likely to get breast cancer than women that never breastfed.
Mothers who breastfed for a total of two years got twice the benefit of those that breastfed for one year.
Mothers who breastfed less than a year total still got a slight benefit, and mothers who breastfed longer than two years got more benefit.
So there you go, there is not a lot of data on the subject but studies have shown that breastfeeding does reduce your risk of breast cancer. Yay for breastfeeding!
For more tips on how to reduce your breast cancer risk, download this PDF book for free from the breastcancer.org website. You can find the download toward the bottom of the page.