by Eden Chiuslekuda
Recently many of you have heard much ado about breastfeeding preventing breast cancer and as we draw to the close of Pink Ribbon month – we thought it might be an excellent time to explain these recent research findings more fully.
So how exactly does breastfeeding work in cancer prevention?
1. Hormonal balance
Excessively high oestrogen levels have been linked to the incidence of breast cancer. Both pregnancy and lactation reduce the levels of oestrogen circulating in the body naturally. Breastfeeding also stimulates the production of oxytocin – (a ‘feel good’ hormone that has also been associated with a reduction in the occurrence of breast cancer.)
2. Removal of toxins
Toxins are generally stored in fatty tissue and the anatomical and physiological mechanics of breastfeeding allow for toxins and carcinogens stored in the breast to leave the mother’s body through the breastmilk – thus creating a detoxifying effect for the mother that is protective against breast cancer. The lymph system is a very big factor in removing toxins from the body. (The effect of the toxins in the breastmilk is believed to be far outweighed by the multiple health benefits for the infant.)
3. Reduces the number of menstrual cycles.
A woman reduces her chance of developing cancer by 4.3% for each year that she breastfeeds and by 7 % for each birth. The fewer menstrual cycles a woman completes, the lower her risk of contracting breast cancer. This makes certain factors like becoming pregnant before the age of 30, extended breastfeeding and multiple pregnancies all beneficial in breast cancer prevention. In order to gain the preventative effect of breastfeeding, women are encouraged to go for as long as possible within the 6 months to 2 ½ years range.
4. Reduces the likelihood of adult cancer in the offspring
Breastfeeding reduces significantly the occurrence of both childhood and adult obesity for the breastfed infant. Obesity has been linked to higher rates of cancer. (Even the United Nations encourages women to breastfeed their infants for up to around 2 years.) Breastfeeding has shown to have a protective effect against cancers of the breast and prostate in adult years. A woman can even breastfeed whilst having breast cancer and be assured that the cancer cells won’t be passed on to her child.
5. Prevents both pre and post-menopausal cancer
Research has established that there is a difference between pre and post-menopausal cancer, and breastfeeding has been shown by subsequent research to be beneficial in preventing both kinds.
It takes a village to successfully breastfeed a child
So there it is – the known facts on breastfeeding’s link to cancer prevention. Breastfeeding can be challenging for some women – so be sure to get help from your elders or other women who have successfully breastfed their babies. ‘It takes a village’, even for breastfeeding.
If you are in the diaspora seek the assistance of a Lactation Consultant or contact the ‘La Leche League’ for a free consultation. Many western workplaces also accommodate the need for a breastfeeding woman to pump milk for her infant while at work. Just stick with it and it gets easier. Also, remember that a natural and unmedicated birth, when possible, makes breastfeeding much easier to manage.
* Eden Chiuslekuda is an ECCT Natural Health Contributor. For more of her natural health & beauty tips, follow her page, ‘A Corner of Eden’ .