Breast cancer is a major health issue that needs attention as it continues to affect a large female population all over the world. “It represents one in four of all cancers in women”. Talking about India specifically, the risk is higher. Researchers have found breastfeeding to pay a significant contribution to reducing the risk of breast cancer.
Breastfeeding is a tradition in many parts of the country and has recently been declining due to rapid urbanization and workload. It can lower the chances of breast cancer in premenopausal women if they continue giving their babies breast milk for at least 1.5 years.
Possible Explanatory Biological Mechanisms that Proves the Link
Researchers have proposed several biological mechanisms to explain the relationship between the two.
One mechanism reduced risk with the hormonal fluctuations and changes in the histology of breast with age and breastfeeding. Menstruation tends to cause cyclic rise and fall in progesterone and estrogen levels. This increases the mitosis, and hence, the risk of breast cancer.
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Pregnancy and breastfeeding are the only two healthy ways to take a break from the menstruation cycle and reduce the risk of breast cancer. Both the process plays a key role in preventing spikes in estrogen hormone. Estrogen has proliferative and cancer-causing effects.
The differentiation and maturation of breast cells in this phase are less-carcinogenic. The process is supported by pregnancy and breastfeeding. It may further reduce the risk by apoptosis that is removing the damaged DNA breast tissues before it starts spreading out.
Other Health Benefits
The benefits of lactating are not only restricted over here. Reduced risk of breast cancer is one of the many benefits of breastfeeding.
Other than this, breastfeeding also has the potency to lower the possibility of ovarian and endometrial cancer. What is more, with this healthy process, you can keep other chronic health conditions, like diabetes and hypertension, also at bay.
Statistics of Breast Cancer in Breastfeeding Women
Women who breastfeed their babies for more than 12 months are less likely to develop breast cancer than those who breastfeed for less than 12 months or do not do so at all, the study says.
According to the research, the threat drops by 4% with each passing year of breastfeeding. The study was specifically for premenopausal women. It shows an inverse relationship between the two.
There are several research papers that point out the significance of lactation on the risk of cancer in premenopausal women. Breastfeeding at a younger age was also found to play a key role in making premenopausal women less prone to cancer.
Breastfeeding is undoubtedly a healthy process for preventing breast cancer. It is known for its protective effect against the mutation of BRCA1 genes.
Lactating for more than 12 months was associated with a 32% drop in compounds triggering BRCA1 gene mutations. There should be platforms to educate those women who are prone to such mutations and have a higher risk of breast cancer.
Need for Breastfeeding Awareness Campaigns
There are some modifiable factors appointed by researchers that may reduce the risk of breast cancer. This demands an increased awareness of public breastfeeding and breast cancer campaigns.
Doing so would besides benefiting mothers, increase child immunity, and overall health. Such times require well-organized campaigns in both rural and urban areas to educate people about the significance of breastfeeding.
It is important to remember that breastfeeding does not completely eliminate the risk, and shares only a part in reducing the chance of cancer. Every female should get a screening at least once a year.