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Breastfeeding and Cancer

Many know that breastfeeding gives babies a healthy start in life. It provides the nutrients babies need, helps protect them from infections and asthma and boosts their immune system.

But relatively few know that breastfeeding protects both mother and child against cancer.

But that finding is why AICR recommends that new mothers breastfeed exclusively for up to six months and then add other liquids and foods. This advice is in line with recommendations from the World Health Organizationexternal site.

How is breastfeeding linked to cancer prevention?

There is convincing evidence that breastfeeding reduces the risk of breast cancer in mothers and probably helps prevent excess weight gain in their children.

What are the long-term benefits for the baby?

Breastfed babies have a decreased risk of becoming overweight or obese as they grow. Research shows that babies who are breastfed are less likely to consume too many calories than babies who are fed infant formula.

It is now well known that obesity is a strong risk factor for many cancers, including those of the colon and breast in postmenopausal women).

What are the long-term benefits for the mother?

As well as helping mothers lose any excess baby weight more quickly, breastfeeding can reduce the risk of breast cancer.

The protective effect of breastfeeding is likely due to the balance of hormones produced during the breastfeeding process. By lowering levels of some cancer-related hormones in the mother’s body, risk of cancer is reduced.

Also, at the end of breastfeeding, the body gets rid of many cells in the breast, some of which may have DNA damage. This reduces the risk of developing breast cancer in the future.

Mother nursing

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