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Study: Breastfeeding can reduce breast cancer risk

By: Team Ifairer | Posted: 16-09-2020
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Study: Breastfeeding can reduce breast cancer risk
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Breast cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer death in women worldwide accounting for almost 1 in 4 cancer cases among women. In India, more than 80,000 women lose their lives every year due to Breast Cancer. However, certain factors can help in preventing or reducing the risk of breast cancer. Few studies suggest that breastfeeding can reduce the risk of breast cancer. Breastfeeding the child for a long duration after child-birth has been a common custom among Indian women. Changing lifestyle and urbanization, however, has resulted in a gradual decline in breastfeeding behaviour.

Breastfeeding helps in lowering the risk of breast cancer in premenopausal women, especially when continued for 1.5 -2 years after childbirth. A prolonged breastfeeding period is associated with a longer period of lactational amenorrhea and thus reduced exposure to estrogen. Several biological mechanisms have been proposed to explain the protective effect of breastfeeding on breast cancer risk. One of the proposed mechanisms is about how hormonal changes and alterations in molecular histology of breast that occur during breastfeeding may reduce an individual's risk for breast cancer. Estrogen and progesterone hormones released during the menstrual cycle increase the mitotic activity in breast cells thereby increasing the risk of Breast Cancer.

Pregnancy and lactation reduce the number of lifetime menstrual cycles reducing exposure to these hormones. Thus, there is a total reduction in exposure to estrogen, which is associated with proliferative and carcinogenic effects in breast cancer. Differentiation or maturation of breast cells occurring during pregnancy is supported by breastfeeding. The differentiated cells have lesser chances of turning into cancerous cells.

The process involved during the cessation of breastfeeding (i.e. apoptosis) might reduce the risk of Breast Cancer by removing cells with initial DNA damage from the breast tissue. Breastfeeding not only reduces the risk of breast cancer but also confers other health benefits to the mother such as the reduced risk for endometrial and ovarian cancers and reduced risk for chronic conditions such as hypertension and diabetes.

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