Does Breastfeeding Cause Breast Cancer?

 “Does Breastfeeding Cause Breast Cancer?”

breast cancer from breast feeding

Breast-feeding mothers are usually extremely aware of how their breasts feel, thus any physical changes are usually noticed. Breast lumps are prevalent during lactation, which can cause women to be concerned about breast cancer. Breast cancer can occur when breast-feeding a baby, although it is rare. Breast-feeding mothers account about 3% of breast cancer cases. Breast cancer risk appears to be temporarily increased in the years following pregnancy and childbirth, according to a study. Hormonal changes during pregnancy may be responsible for the higher risk.

Overall, breast-feeding, reduces the risk of breast cancer in women, particularly those who are premenopausal. The number of menstrual cycles a woman has in her lifetime will be reduced during pregnancy and breast-feeding months. This will decrease her exposure to hormones that may heighten her cancer risk. 

Can breastfeeding lead to breast cancer?

While lumps on the breasts are common during lactation, many women are concerned that they are symptoms of breast cancer. The answer is a resounding NO! Breast cancer cases are accounted for by just 3% of breastfeeding women. Breastfeeding appears to be a preventive factor, with women who breastfeed their children having a lower chance of developing breast cancer. According to studies, breastfeeding mothers had a lower incidence of premenopausal and postmenopausal breast cancer. Breastfeeding for longer than the usual six months might also offer further protection (Lindsey Wohlberg, wellness dietician).

Because of their menstrual cycles, women are exposed to various hormones throughout their lives. These hormones have been linked to an increased risk of some cancers. During breastfeeding, most women who breastfeed experience hormonal changes that cause their menstrual cycles to be delayed. This lowers a woman's lifetime exposure to oestrogen, which can stimulate the development of breast cancer cells. Breast tissue is also shed during pregnancy and lactation. This shedding can aid in the removal of cells with possible DNA damage, lowering the risk of breast cancer.

Despite the minimal risk of breast cancer, women should always seek medical advice if they have concerns about their breast health.

Breastfeeding tip

Breastfeeding should be done exclusively for at least six months to obtain the health benefits (American Institute for Cancer Research and World Health Organization). This means your baby only gets breast milk and nothing else — no water, other liquids, or solids. Evidence suggests that after six months and beyond, the health benefits and cancer risk reduction become considerable. Breast milk also supplies all of the energy and nutrients your baby requires to grow and remain healthy during this period.

Breast milk provides at least half of a child's nutritional needs after six months. As a result, meals like baby cereal, fruits, and vegetables may be introduced gradually. Women should, however, continue to breastfeed. Breastfeeding for more than six months is not only helpful for the child's health, but it also protects the mother against breast and ovarian cancers.

Breastfeeding reduced a woman's risk of breast cancer by 4.3 percent for every year she breastfed (Collaborative Group on Hormonal Factors in Breast Cancer). Breastfeeding mothers were compared to non-breastfeeding mothers in the research. Furthermore, women who breastfed for more than 13 months were 63% less likely than women who breastfed for less than seven months to develop ovarian cancer. When compared to women who breastfed for less than 10 months, women who breastfed several children for more than 31 months have a 91% lower risk of ovarian cancer.

Factors in diagnosing lactating women

Breast cancer diagnosis might be more challenging for breastfeeding women due to a number of factors. The following are some of them: 

  • Breast-feeding can produce symptoms that are quite similar to the signs of breast cancer.

  • If a woman develops a lump during breast-feeding, doctors may not consider to screen her for cancer because there are other probable reasons.

  • During lactation, mammograms and breast ultrasounds are more likely to provide a false positive or ambiguous result.

Reasons for breast lumps during lactation

A lump in the breast while breast-feeding can be caused by a variety of diseases other than breast cancer. The following are some of them:

  1. Engorgement

It's typical for the breasts to get excessively full with milk during the first few weeks of breastfeeding, making them lumpy and uncomfortable. Engorgement is typical in the early phases of breast-feeding, but it can also happen when the breasts aren't draining properly. Engorgement symptoms should subside as the breasts empty. Additionally, as the woman's body adjusts to the baby's demand for milk, the condition may improve.

  1. Plugged ducts

Milk is produced in special cells in the breasts before travelling through small ducts to the nipples. The duct might clog if the milk is not drained frequently enough or if the milk thickens. This can cause milk to get lodged in the breast tissue, resulting in a painful lump. A blocked duct may usually be resolved with regular breast-feeding, breast massage, and warm compresses.

  1. Mastitis

Mastitis is a condition in which the breasts become inflamed or infected. Engorgement or a plugged duct are the most common causes. Milk proteins can build up in the breast if it becomes trapped, eventually leaking into the surrounding tissue. Breastfeeding should be continued by a woman who has mastitis. Breast-feeding can help remove clogged milk from the tissue, which is the most efficient way to relieve discomfort.

  1. Abscess

Untreated mastitis can lead to an abscess, which is an uncommon but serious condition. It is one of the systems through which the body combats infection and prevents it from spreading throughout the body. A pocket of pus and bacteria forms in the middle of an abscess. The infected tissue at the core of an abscess cannot leave once it has formed. An abscess requires immediate medical attention, with drainage and antibiotics as part of the treatment plan.

  1. Galactocele

Galactoceles are lumps in the breast that develop over time. They are milk-filled and may appear and disappear depending on the amount of milk in the breasts. These tiny bumps are typically painless and will go away when lactation is finished.

Breastfeeding reduces not only yours but also your child’s risk of breast cancer

Breastfeeding has been shown to reduce the risk of a child being overweight or obese later in life. Obesity puts a person at risk for a variety of malignancies - pancreatic, postmenopausal breast, endometrial, esophageal, rectal, and kidney cancers. Breastfeeding also assists in the immune system development of a child.  Antibodies are passed down to the child through  breast milk. This reduces the child's chances of getting ear infections, as well as respiratory and intestinal issues. Furthermore, studies show that the longer a child is breastfed, the less likely he or she is to develop allergies.

Thus, developing breast cancer while breastfeeding is an extremely rare occurrence. Any worries concerning breast health should be addressed seriously, and a doctor's visit is advised. There are other lifestyle considerations that play a role: breastfeeding (and pregnant) women are more likely to quit smoking and drinking, as well as they consume healthier meals. Breastfeeding isn't the only method to lower your risk of breast cancer; exercise and a good diet can also help. So keep in mind that one of the most effective ways to reduce your cancer risk is to adopt healthy lifestyle choices that you can control.






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