You may know breastfeeding is healthy for a baby, but you can add cancer protection to the list of health benefits – for the mother as well as her baby.
August 1 marks the start of the 20th World Breastfeeding Week, and to highlight the event, we’re focusing on one health benefit that has only emerged over the last few years: breastfeeding may help protect a mother and her child against developing cancer years later.
AICR’s expert report and its updates concluded that breastfeeding may help protect mothers from breast cancer. The research linking lactation to lower cancer risk applied to both pre- and post-menopausal breast cancer.
It also protects babies from gaining excess body fat, which can lead to their being obese in adult life. Among adults, excess body fat links to increased risk of seven different cancers, including cancers of the kidney, colon and post-menopausal breast.
Experts do not yet know exactly how breastfeeding offers cancer protection. But there are several possible mechanisms, which may work together.
Given the evidence, AICR recommends mothers breastfeed exclusively for up to six months and then add other liquids and foods. The recommendation follows the World Health Organization recommendation, who is sponsoring World Breastfeeding Week. One of the other benefits of breastfeeding is that mother's milk can protect babies against illness and infections.
There are many reasons mothers may not breastfeed. For those moms, there are other lifestyle choices about diet, weight and being active that will also lower risk for themselves and their baby. View the full list of AICR's Recommendations.
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