Women could reduce their breast cancer risk if they turned the
clock back and nurtured their babies just the way they did about a century ago.
A huge study, which collected data involving 150,000 women,
clearly supported the fact that multiparity and breastfeeding can drastically
cut breast cancer risk. The longer the duration of breast-feeding the greater
was the protection against the dreaded cancer!
If women from the developed countries produced half a dozen
children and breast fed each for a period of two years - as was the norm all
over the world, including Europe —their chances of developing breast cancer by
age 70 fell from 6.3 percent to 2.7 percent. Even if they breast fed each of
their children for an extra six months it reduced the chances of cancer by 5
percent each year!
However scientists do concede that this requirement to revert back
to the older way of life is not practically suited to the demands and stress of
the current lifestyle, which requires women to follow a career.
Currently, British women have just two children, on an average,
and they are breast fed for about two to three months. If each of these
children could be breast fed for another six months, a thousand cancer cases
could be reduced. Currently, only one in five British mothers breast-feed their
babies beyond six months.
The study has helped to understand the lower breast cancer rates
in developing countries where breast feeding the child is the norm. Western
women have greater chances of developing breast cancer compared to the
developing countries where the frequency ranges between 1 to 2 percent. This,
sadly, is increasing as the developing countries are increasingly emulating the
There is no scientific explanation as to how breastfeeding reduces
the risk of cancer although reproductive behavior and female hormones have been
Breastfeeding has always been known to benefit babies but it is
now clear it includes health benefits for moms as well. It is hoped that this
piece of research will prompt more women to move away from the bottle-feeding
culture and to breast feed their babies. It is also expected to motivate those
who already breastfeed their babies to do so for longer periods of time.