ABC Medical Center > Digital magazine > Breastfeeding helps reduce the risk of cancer in women

Breastfeeding helps reduce the risk of cancer in women

9 December 2022

Key points:

  • It is estimated that one in eight women will develop breast cancer.
  • Breastfeeding must be performed for at least six months, preferably exclusively, to help reduce the risk of breast cancer.
  • More than 12 months of breastfeeding helps reduce the risk of ovarian cancer by up to 36%.

Dr. Andrea Barbero Ibarrola, a gynecologist specializing in oncology at ABC Medical Center, says that there is a benefit of pregnancy and, later, breastfeeding to reduce the appearance of two types of cancer in women.

It is believed that in breast cancer and ovarian cancer, ovulatory cycles and menstrual cycles are disrupted when a woman is breastfeeding regularly, failing to produce estrogen and progesterone, female hormones. During this time, the hormones do not act on the breast tissue, while the ovaries are no longer constantly stimulated and, therefore, the risk of cancer is reduced.

Some researchers indicate that the benefit of pregnancy and breastfeeding on breast tissue is not only at a hormonal level, but the breast cells must also change to produce milk, reducing the risk of producing cancer in the future.

For you to reduce the risk of breast cancer through breastfeeding, it must be done for at least six months and, preferably, exclusively, which means breastfeeding your baby several times a day, says Dr. Barbero.

In 2020, 2.3 million women were diagnosed with breast cancer worldwide, and 685,000 died from the disease. At the end of the same year, 7.8 million women who had been diagnosed with breast cancer in the previous five years were still alive, making this cancer the most prevalent in the world.1

The risk of suffering from breast cancer is very high since it is estimated that one in eight women will experience it. But thanks to breastfeeding, this risk decreases by almost 5% for every 12 months that a woman breastfeeds.

The risk of ovarian cancer will also decrease depending on the breastfeeding period:

  • From zero to six months the risk decreases by 15%.
  • From six to 12 months the risk decreases by 27%.
  • Greater than 12 months reduces the risk by 36%.

Another pregnancy and breastfeeding benefit is that they reduce the risk of having breast cancer with an accumulative effect, this means that, if you have had several pregnancies or you have had a longer breastfeeding period, the risks of suffering breast cancer in the future will be reduced.

On the other hand, Dr. Barbero says that, if you begin to perceive suspicious signs or symptoms about the possible presence of a malignant tumor, it is best to see your trusted doctor to examine you and, if necessary, have a timely diagnosis and treatment. It must be remembered that, in case of having breast cancer, the treatment against this disease is the priority, even if this suspends breastfeeding.

At ABC Medical Center’s Obstetrics Center, we can provide you with specialized care. Contact us!

Dra. Andrea Barbero Ibarrola – Gynecologist specializing in oncology at ABC Medical Center

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