In Scotland, this is national breastfeeding week- a celebration of what has been achieved but also a call to reflect on how we might do better. With colleagues in the School of Nursing and Midwifery at the University of Dundee and other experts across the UK, I am a signatory to a statement calling for a change in the culture to provide all women with the right support, at the right time, in the right place to initiate and maintain breastfeeding. And yes… breastfeeding is relevant to a cancer prevention network.
The European Code Against Cancer recommends:
“Breastfeeding reduces the mother’s cancer risk. If you can, breastfeed your baby”.
The background review paper reports:
- Protective effect against breast cancer at all ages
- 2% reduction per 5 months breastfeeding
- The longer breastfeeding is continued the better
- Exclusive BF impacts on ER- and ER+ cancers
- Modest protective effect against ovarian and endometrial cancer
And there is more ….
Breast feeding is associated with
- More rapid return to pre-pregnancy weight
- Lower incidence of the metabolic syndrome for mother (and decrease risk of type 2 diabetes)
- Lower body weight in later life
Everyone knows about the nutritional benefits of breast milk and the amazing immunological benefits but the long term effects (largely associated with reduced exposure to oestrogens) should not be forgotten.
Supporting our daughters and granddaughters to appreciate the lifelong effects of breast feeding must be central to women’s health which is why we call for education for children, through to support from health professionals as a key part of health for all.
Professor Annie S. Anderson