Breastfeeding Lowers Your Breast Cancer Risk

Breasts are one of the most impressive and fascinating organs for various reasons. So it’s no surprise that when it comes to breastfeeding, breast milk is the best source of nutrition, providing many health benefits for babies. However, the health benefits for women who breastfeed are less commonly known. So let’s talk about the connection between breastfeeding and cancer prevention.

Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer; one in eight women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime. While a woman is pregnant and soon after giving birth, hormonal changes cause a pause in her menstrual period. Breastfeeding extends these hormonal changes, resulting in less exposure to as many hormones over their lifetimes as women who don’t. Since overexposure to estrogen and other hormones is linked to breast cancer risk, breastfeeding lowers breast cancer risk. 

Studies have suggested that women who breastfeed their babies for at least one year or longer have greater protection against breast cancer. There is mounting evidence that this association may differ by subtype, such that breastfeeding may be more protective of some invasive breast cancer types. 

Breastfeeding may be more strongly linked to a lower risk of estrogen receptor-negative (including triple negative) breast cancers than estrogen receptor-positive cancers. Another reason breastfeeding is linked to breast cancer risk reduction is that women watch their diet more while breastfeeding. Since they eat more nutritious foods and do not smoke or drink, breastfeeding mothers lead healthier lifestyles, lowering the breast cancer risk.

Can I get breast cancer while breastfeeding?

Although a woman can develop breast cancer at any time in her life – including while breastfeeding or pumping – there is no known increase in risk during that time. However, since women may be keener on breast changes during breastfeeding, they may be more likely to notice potential warning signs of cancer. A nursing mother’s breasts generally feel ‘lumpy’ due to milk production or even blocked milk ducts. Talk to your doctor about any changes or concerns.

Are mammograms safe during breastfeeding?

Women who are breastfeeding may be concerned about the safety of breast screening. However, according to the American College of Radiology Appropriateness Criteria®, mammography and digital breast tomosynthesis screening (3D mammography) fall into the “usually appropriate” category for breastfeeding women, which means that both imaging procedures have a favorable risk-to-benefit ratio for patients.

When breastfeeding, the density of the breast tissue increases, which may make it more difficult to detect abnormalities on a mammogram, for this reason, it is often recommended women nurse or pump immediately before the procedure to empty the breasts. 

Can I breastfeed during cancer treatment?

Many therapies used to treat breast cancer can be passed on to the nursing baby through breast milk. However, breastfeeding while receiving chemotherapy is not generally recommended due to the risk of excretion into breast milk. In addition, when breastfeeding, it is advised against certain oral breast cancer treatments, like tamoxifen. Therefore, asking your doctor about breastfeeding before starting any treatments is important.





Find More Articles