Scientists have elaborated a few theories why breast-feeding lowers breast cancer risk. Three of them, well supported by research, have been presented in a report released by the American Institute for Cancer Research and the World Cancer Research Fund.
Here are the three main reasons why breast-feeding lowers cancer risk:
- Lactation – the process delays the moment when women start menstruating again. The longer the lactation period, the longer the pause of exposure to hormones which have been proven to have something to do with the increase in breast cancer risk (for example estrogen)
- Breast shedding – after lactation, the breast shakes off a lot of tissue, which means it gets rid of damaged DNA as well. This automatically decreases the chances of developing breast cancer.
- Change in gene expression – scientists believe that lactation also has the power to make a change at a gene level in breast cells, thus “overwriting” genetic information and leading to a reduction in breast cancer risk.
Breast cancer affects both men and women, even though the number of women diagnosed is significantly higher than that of men. According to Medical News Today, in 2014, almost 237,000 women and a little over 2,000 men received a breast cancer diagnosis. The same year, the numbers of people who lost the battle with the disease were 41,211 (women) and 465 (men).
Risk factors for breast cancer (according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC):
- Inherited genetic mutations
- Advanced age (over 50)
- Early menstruation (before age 12)
- Late carried-to-term first pregnancy (over age 30)
- No pregnancy
- Early menopause (before 55)
- High breast tissue density (more connective tissue than fat tissue)
- Hormone therapy during menopause (continued for more than 5 years)
- Birth control pills use (some)
- Diethylstilbestrol (DES) use
- Alcohol abuse
- Chemical exposure
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