I received several comments via email regarding the relationship between breastfeeding and cancer risk. So I give the people what they want, more information! There are many benefits to breastfeeding. Most of the research done has been on the benefits of breastfeeding for baby.
It is true, breastfeeding is definitely the best choice of nutrition for a newborn. The breastfeeding recommendation for infants is that breast milk be the exclusive form of nutrition for the first 6 months. After that, foods are introduced and breast milk continues to be a compliment to solid food.
Breastfeeding is associated with decreased risk for many chronic diseases during childhood and adulthood and therefore decreases risk for cancer. Breast milk also contains many beneficial compounds that support a healthy immune system for the baby.
However, the benefits don’t stop with the baby. More recent research suggests that breastfeeding can decrease risk of cancer for the mother. More specifically, the benefits come from the lactation process, meaning that benefits for mother are linked to the process by with the mother produces milk to breastfeed. That means that it is beneficial whether the milk is produced for the mother’s own child (via breast or breast pump), for another child or for storage in a human milk bank.
The link between lactating and breast cancer is strong and suggests that it can reduce the risk of both pre and post menopausal breast cancer. The reduced risk is thought to be related to the change in hormones that happens during lactation. A full report as well as a summary of these results can be found at the American Institute for Cancer Research website (www.aicr.org).
I forgot to mention in the last post about my favorite nutrition newsletter, Nutrition Action. They did an excellent review of this report. If you’d like to order them delivered directly to your door, check out http://www.cspinet.org/nah/index.htm.
Some people say it’s all about the breasts. In this case, it is!