I am sure that we are all well aware by now of the benefits of breastfeeding for infants. Human breastmilk is the perfect food for infants because,
- It has the proper amount of nutrients and adapts to the nutrition needs of the infantIt is easily digested,
- It requires no preparation or special storage,
- It is is always the right temperature (when directly from the breast).
- Babies that are breastfed are less likely to have ear infections
- Breastfed babies are less likely to have allergies and asthma and if they do have allergies and asthma the conditions tend to be less severe
- Breastfed babies have a reduced incidence of developing Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
- Breastfed children have a lower incidence of obesity
With all of these great benefits for children, you’d think that we here in the US would be jumping through all sorts of hoops to make sure that ALL mamas breastfeed their babies. There has been a lot of information distributed and I think that more mamas are breastfeeding their infants-at least for the first few months of life. However, data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states,
“In 2011, 79% of newborn infants started to breastfeed. Yet breastfeeding did not continue for as long as recommended. Of infants born in 2011, 49% were breastfeeding at 6 months and 27% at 12 months.”
So while we are seeing improvement, we still have a ways to go to reach the Healthy People 2020 goal of approximately 82% of infants being exclusively breastfed at birth. Yet, would these numbers change if mamas knew the benefits of breastfeeding on their health, in particular on their risks of developing breast cancer?
Rachel King, a health education specialist in MD Anderson’s Lyda Hill Cancer Prevention Center reports:
“Research shows mothers who breastfeed lower their risk of pre- and post-menopausal breast cancer. And, breastfeeding longer than the recommended six months can provide additional protection.”
Most women who breastfeed experience hormonal changes during lactation that delay their menstrual periods. This reduces a woman’s lifetime exposure to estrogen, which can promote breast cancer cell growth. In addition, during pregnancy and breastfeeding, you shed breast tissue. “This shedding can help remove cells with potential DNA damage, thus helping to reduce your chances of developing breast cancer,” King adds.
Breastfeeding also can help lower your ovarian cancer risk by preventing ovulation. And the less you ovulate, the less exposure to estrogen and abnormal ovarian cells that could become cancer.
So EXACTLY how can mamas lower their breast (and ovarian) cancer risks by breastfeeding?
- Have their babies before age 30
- Breastfeed for at least 6 months
- Get education and support from a lactation consultant
- Take Breastfeeding classes
- Get the support of family, friends and employers
- Ask employers for quiet, private places to pump
Breastfeeding is not chic nor a trend. Breastfeeding is the natural way that human babies were intended to be fed. Now we know that breastfeeding is beneficial not only to babies but also protective against breast cancer for mamas. What other incentives do we need? Let’s do this, Mamas!
October is Breast cancer awareness month. Mamas, If you have questions about breast cancer, have a family history of breast cancer or want to reduce your risk of developing breast cancer, start by breastfeeding your infant for at least 6 months. For more information, speak with your health care provider, consult with a lactation consultant and check out the information below (This is just a sample of what is available and what was cited in this post. For sure there is more information available!!). As always, you can post your questions and comments below for a ready reply!
We all know that “Breast is Best”! Yet in this country, many women are still unaware of the benefits of breastfeeding. Nowhere is this more evident than in the Black community where the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted that only 62% of African American mothers initiated breastfeeding as of 2010 data. By 6 months, only 32% of those mothers were still breastfeeding. So while lactation consultants and others will continue to promote breastfeeding citing the benefits to the baby, there is now an equally significant reason to promote breastfeeding in African American Mamas: Breastfeeding likely protects African American women against Estrogen Receptor negative breast cancer.
Estrogen Receptor negative breast cancer is a very aggressive form of breast cancer and African American women are affected at a disproportionately higher rate than white women. While breastfeeding has been shown to reduce the risk of cancer, this has previously only been shown in Estrogen Receptor positive cancers. According to this current study, African American women who have given birth had a 33% higher risk for ER-negative breast cancer than those who had never given birth, and a 37% higher risk for triple-negative breast cancer. However, breast-feeding lowered the risk for both ER-negative and triple-negative disease. Christine Ambrosone, PhD, chair of the Department of Cancer Prevention and Control at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, New York summarizes the findings this way:
“These data might partially explain why black women are disproportionately affected by ER-negative breast cancer; although they typically have more children than white women, they have a lower prevalence of lactation. In addition, for every age category in the United States, the incidence of triple-negative breast cancer is higher in black women than in non-Hispanic white women.”
Some researchers are skeptical of the findings, stating that it has yet to be determined that pregnancy is causative of Estrogen Receptor Negative Breast Cancer and breastfeeding reduces risk. However, Dr. Ambrose and her colleagues hold firm that their data suggest that pregnancy and childbirth might actually increase the incidence, but that breast-feeding might lower the risk.
Personally, I feel that since such a simple act could have such a significant outcome, it only makes sense to increase awareness and increase the emphasis among African American women to breastfeed. To date, there is no compelling reason for black women NOT to breastfeed. Now, with the known potential benefits to the baby and the ever emerging benefits to black mamas-now a potential protection against an aggressive form of breast cancer-breastfeeding is becoming more of a necessity than ever!
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Mamas, please share this vital information with other (black) mamas you may know who are either on the fence about breastfeeding or who are against breastfeeding. This data is too important not to share! The potential costs are too great and the solution too simple and readily available. Thank you. Let me know how you fared in the comments section below.
Julie R. Palmer, Emma Viscidi, Melissa A. Troester, Chi-Chen Hong, Pepper Schedin, Traci N. Bethea, Elisa V. Bandera, Virginia Borges, Craig McKinnon, Christopher A. Haiman, Kathryn Lunetta, Laurence N. Kolonel, Lynn Rosenberg, Andrew F. Olshan and Christine B. Ambrosone. “Parity, Lactation, and Breast Cancer Subtypes in African American Women: Results from the AMBER Consortium” Journal of the National Cancer institute (2014) 106 (10): dju237
No one wants to think about a breast cancer diagnosis, let alone while pregnant. Unfortunately, breast cancer does occur during pregnancy. In a recent MedScape Case Study presentation, researchers noted that
“In 10 % of women diagnosed with breast cancer (BC) under the age of 40 years, the disease is associated with pregnancy. BC is diagnosed in approximately one in 3,000 pregnancies, making it the second most common pregnancy-associated malignancy (after cervical cancer)….The increased incidence of BC following childbirth suggests that pregnancy may stimulate the growth of cells that have already undergone malignant transformation.”
While a breast cancer diagnosis is devastating at any time, it is particularly devastating during pregnancy. However, medical advances and technology has made it possible for women to not only be diagnosed safely during pregnancy, but to also be treated safely and without harm to their babies. Additionally, women who are diagnosed prior to pregnancy have options regarding fertility preservation and management.
I have written extensively about cases of breast cancer in young women and in particular, in women during the childbearing years. There are many and numerous resources available to help young women battling breast cancer as well as battling breast cancer while pregnant and preserving fertility while battling breast cancer. My article on the Pink Ribbon Cowgirls shares the stories of 3 women who were diagnosed with breast cancer young, and who have gone on to have children and preserve their fertility. Be sure to scroll down to the end of the article for very useful support resources and practices that are devoted specifically to preserving fertilty with breast cancer.
As you will notice from the link to the Pink Ribbon Cowgirls article, I am in the process of developing and launching a general women’s health website, DarlineTurner.com. I have written extensively about women’s health over the years and I am sharing all that I have learned on this website. I will also be adding articles and blog posts about women’s physical health, emotional health, sexual health, intellectual (professional) health and financial health. There is lots coming so be sure to check back. I’ll let you know when the offical launch happens!!