risk of breast cancer decreases for every 12 months a woman breastfeeds


cases of invasive breast cancer were diagnosed in women in 2020

1 in 28

women in South Africa may develop breast cancer in their life

There are a number of health benefits associated with breastfeeding babies as opposed to bottle feeding. As far as cancer risk goes, breastfeeding has been found to reduce the risk of prominent childhood cancers like leukaemia, while it also decreases the likelihood of obesity and risk associated cancers later in your child’s life.
The first six months are especially key. Not only for the child but for the mother too, as research has indicated that moms who breastfeed have a lower chance of developing breast cancer as well as ovarian cancer.

According to the WHO, only an estimated 32% of South African mothers exclusively breastfeed in first six months of their child’s life

Why does breastfeeding affect cancer risk?


Lactation or breastfeeding could plausibly influence breast cancer risk through the hormonal influence of ovulatory and infertility. It also decreases lifetime exposure to menstrual cycles and therefore alters increasing vulnerabilities to specific hormones, particularly androgens, which can influence cancer risk.

Got milk? Here are some key benefits to breastfeeding:

  • Breastfeeding reduces childhood obesity which results in a lower chance of type 1 & 2 diabetes
  • Breast milk is easily digested by babies
  • It delivers antibodies and probiotics from mom to strengthen the immune system
  • In addition, the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is halved in babies who are breastfed
  • Lower risk of developing breast cancer, particularly if you have your children when you are younger.
  • Reducing your lifetime exposure to hormones such as oestrogen, which is linked to an increased risk of breast and ovarian cancers.
  • Ridding yourself of any cells in your breasts that may have DNA damage.

If you are thinking about breastfeeding and need more help and advice, talk to your doctor or a nurse. Also, seek out advice should you struggle with your baby latching on, lactating and any other problems pertaining to breastfeeding.


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