Breast cancer is a horrible illness and sadly too many people die from it each year. Breastfeeding can protect us against breast cancer. It reduces our risk of breast cancer.
I try not to think about breast cancer. About the number of families it leaves devastated each year. The number of children motherless, the number of husbands wifeless and the number of parents who see their grown up babies die before their time. Breast cancer is a horrible, horrible disease. But there are a few things that we can do to reduce our risk of getting it and breastfeeding is one of them. Breastfeeding can protect us against breast cancer. It reduces our risk of breast cancer.
How common is breast cancer?
Sadly, breast cancer is very common. In the UK, it is the most common cancer and the lifetime risk is 1 in 8 women. It is a very sad and scary illness. Tragically lots of women die from breast cancer and that includes women under 50.
The good news is that treatments are getting better all the time and survival rates keep improving.
Risk factors for breast cancer
Risk factors are things that give you a greater chance of having an illness. It's good to reduce your risk factors as much as possible, although it doesn't guarantee that you won't get a particular illness. Some risk factors (like smoking) you can choose to change. Others you are stuck with.
- Being a woman
- Family History
- Breastfeeding reduces your risk
- Having other cancers
- Certain genes
- Drinking alcohol
- Being overweight after the menopause
The first three risk factors for breast cancer you can't do much about. Firstly being a women (men can get breast cancer but because they have much less breast tissue, it's much rarer.)
Secondly your age. The older you are the more likely you are to get it.
Family history, so if people close to you like your sister or mother have had breast cancer, that puts you at an increased risk. Genetics plays a part in breast cancer and having certain genes or previous breast disease yourself.
Breastfeeding protects you from Breast Cancer
Breastfeeding gives you some protection from getting breast cancer. The more you breastfeed, the more protection you get.
For every year of breastfeeding, you get a 4% risk reduction. And you get a 7% reduction for each child that you have. The younger you are when you have your first child, the more protection you get.
Interestingly, in Japan, 90% of mothers breastfeed and they have a much lower incidence of breast cancer than other developed countries. (It's not definite that it's because of breastfeeding but it might well be.)
How can I reduce my risk of breast cancer?
- Reduce your alcohol intake
- Don’t take HRT
- Watch your weight after menopause
Breastfeeding is one of the things that you can do to help reduce your chance of betting breast cancer.
Drink in moderation, or not at all.
Avoid HRT as they contain oestrogen that increases your oestrogen level.
Keep healthy, especially after the menopause. Being overweight after the menopause increases your risk.
It is recommended that you examine your breasts every month. If you are over 50 you will get called to have a mammogram as part of the breast cancer screening program. It’s important to pick up on signs and symptoms early so that you have a better outcome.
Cancer Research UK
To write this post I used the Cancer Research UK website. They have a really great web site with loads and loads of information on it. (I only took out small bits). They also fund lots of really good research. If you're thinking of donating money to a cancer charity, this is a great one even if you don't live in the UK as their research benefits everyone.