Friday, September 5, 2008

Breast Cancer and Breastfeeding

Time for monthly breast self exams!
I have not been very good about remembering to post these regularly...but I'm trying to work on that. Meanwhile, a "feel yourself up" post by itself isn't terribly exciting, so I've decided to start adding Breast Cancer facts to these monthly posts.

This month: breastfeeding
(while I am staunchly pro-breastfeeding, please realize that I'm not saying that breastfeeding is a sure-fire way to prevent breast cancer...just the research shows a correlation...)

Dr Andrew Weil: "Breastfeeding does appear to protect against breast cancer, probably by affecting levels of estrogen in a woman's body. Results of a study published in the July 20, 2002, issue of The Lancet showed that the more babies a woman has and the longer she nurses them, the lower her risk of breast cancer. The researchers reviewed 47 reports of studies in 30 countries that contained information about 50,000 women with breast cancer and almost 97,000 women who didn’t develop breast cancer."

[According to the study mentioned above] "breastfeeding lowers the risk of breast cancer by 4.3% for every year of feeding. There is also a 7% reduction in risk of breast cancer for each child born. A 4% lowering of risk doesn't sound much but, as breast cancer is quite a common disease in developed countries, breast feeding every child for an extra 6 months would mean about 1,000 fewer cases of breast cancer in Britain each year.
"Interestingly, in Japan 90% of women who have children breast feed. Japan is often talked about in relation to the incidence of breast cancer because, although it is obviously a developed country, breast cancer rates are much lower than they are in Western countries. Usually, people talk about diet as the explanation for this. But it may well be cultural differences in feeding babies that explains it."

"After analyzing data from 98 studies on lactation and breast cancer risk, the group said the evidence is now "convincing" that breastfeeding lowers the risk of both pre-menopausal and post-menopausal breast cancer. There is a 2 percent drop in breast cancer risk for each five months of breastfeeding." The Boston Globe, April 2008

And for those who have, or have previously had breast cancer, the FDA has some comfort to offer:
"Breast cancer is not passed through breast milk. Women who have had breast cancer can usually breast-feed from the unaffected breast. There is some concern that the hormones produced during pregnancy and lactation may trigger a recurrence of cancer, but so far this has not been proven. Studies have shown, however, that breast-feeding a child reduces a woman's chance of developing breast cancer later."

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