Thursday, October 21, 2010

How about Breast Cancer Prevention Month instead?

This whole Breast Cancer Awareness Month stuff has me a bit confused. Why awareness and not prevention? While I understand that prevention is certainly not always possible, I still think it is a better goal than simple awareness. Aren't we all aware of breast cancer already?

More and more studies are confirming the link between breastfeeding and a reduced risk of breast cancer (and ovarian cancer, for that matter). This is some pretty exciting news, but for some reason, many women are not being made aware of this link.

According to findings in the Cornell University Program on Breast Cancer and Environmental Risk Factors in New York State in 1999, there are a number of possible reasons why breastfeeding could lesson the risk for cancer. They conclude that breastfeeding:
  • causes hormonal changes. Reduced levels of estrogen has been linked to reduced incidences of breast cancer.
  • suppresses ovulation. There have been numerous studies revealing a decreased risk of developing breast cancer in women who have had fewer ovulatory cycles.
  • flushes out potential carcinogens stored in the adipose tissue of the breast.
  • alters the cells lining the mammary ducts, which may result in a resistance to mutations that can lead to cancer.
Interestingly enough, several researchers have concluded there is a decreased chance of developing breast cancer in women who were breastfed as babies. Why? Because of the hormones and immune factors present in breast milk. (You're welcome, B & J!)

Of course, because there is a link between breast cancer and BPA, it only makes sense to conclude that many formula-fed babies who were given bottles containing BPA are more at risk for developing cancer than their breastfed cousins.

Aside from a lowered risk of developing breast cancer when they grow up, much research indicates that babies who are breastfed either have lower incidences or less severe cases of a variety of childhood illnesses, including:
  • diarrhea
  • lower respiratory infections
  • ear infections
  • bacterial meningitis
Further studies suggest some possible protective effects in regards to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), allergic diseases and chronic digestive diseases.

The length of time you spend nursing your children matters as well. The longer you breastfeed, the more your risk for breast cancer decreases. A study by Roko Cancer, indicates that breastfeeding for longer durations significantly reduces the risk of breast cancer in pre-menopausal women. And a study of Chinese women who nursed their babies for a combined total of six years, cut their risk of developing breast cancer by 63% compared to women who never breastfed!

Of course, I expect to get some backlash from women who tried, but failed, at breastfeeding, or for one reason or another, chose not to nurse their children. It is not my goal to make any of you feel badly or heap regret or guilt upon you! My goal is simply to educate women who may be unsure of whether or not breastfeeding is the right choice for them and their babies. And Breast Cancer Awareness Month seemed like the perfect time to do that, since awareness of the facts can lead to prevention. So maybe awareness isn't such a bad thing after all!

Keeping it healthy,


No comments:

Post a Comment

Search This Blog