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Breastfeeding helps lower the risk of breast cancer, expert says

“Knowing that this one thing is something we’re helping ourselves in addition to our children, I think is very motivating and encouraging,” said Briana Jegier.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — There are a lot of preventative measures against breast cancer. One of the most natural is breastfeeding. 

A lactation specialist spoke about the benefits breastfeeding has on lowering the risk for breast cancer.

Nature and nurture don’t always have to compete. 

“Our bodies are so cool,” said Briana Jegier, Baptist Health Sciences University Health Administration and Public Health Department Associate Professor and Chair.

That is especially true when it comes to breastfeeding. 

“Lactation is so neat. There are over a hundred-thousand different things in breast milk. We don’t even have all the names for them yet,” said Jegier.

What we do know is that breastfeeding can lower the risk of getting breast cancer. 

“You have to have any breastfeeding for at least 12 months across all of your children. If you have three children and each of them breastfeed for only four months, you’ve reduced your risk of breast cancer,” said Jegier.

That protection can last up to 30 years after a mother’s last lactation. 

Here’s how it works. 

“In women, the way that breastfeeding works to reduce your risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and other diseases is you shed breast tissue. That swelling and development of the breast during pregnancy and then the process of feeding or expressing your milk if you’re pumping actually kind of pulls some breast tissue,” said Jegier.

That tissue may be damaged or have DNA that needs repairing. 

“Breast milk also contains stem cells. Just like for infants, you have these little cells that work in ways to repair tissue, well you’re making them so it can work internally too,” said Jegier. “Breast milk contains hormones. Having that opportunity to reset and change how some of our hormones are circulating through our bodies, they rise during pregnancy, they fall during lactation, gives us that opportunity for some reprogramming.”

Reprogramming is healthy for mothers. 

“When we talk about breastfeeding and why it’s important, we talk about the benefits to the baby. They are big and important, but my research actually shows that about 80% of the benefit is actually to the mom,” said Jegier. “Knowing that this one thing is something we’re helping ourselves in addition to our children, I think is very motivating and encouraging.” 

That brings nature and nurture on one accord.

Jegier said breastfeeding can also help lower the risk for ovarian cancer and other diseases.

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