Dr. Suneetha Mulinti

With BREAST FEEDING a Women will have:

. a reduction of 4.3% in incidence of invasive breast cancer with a 12 month breast feeding

· a reduction of more than 7%  in incidence of invasive breast cancer with a 12 +months breast feeding

· 30 % reduction in the incidence of ovarian cancer

A woman may be proud of many things in her life but nothing beats being a mother and breast feeding is a gift to herself and her baby.

The WHO and UNICEF recommend early initiation of breast feeding within one hour of birth and exclusively for 6 months , thereafter continued for at least 2 years along with complementary solid food.

According to the national family health survey in India only 42% of mothers initiate breast feeding within one hour of birth and only 54% of children exclusively breastfed in first 6 months. Its highly alarming that out of 26 lakh neonatal deaths globally 6 lakh deaths happen in India. It’s being estimated that globally about 8.23 lakhs of infant deaths and 20 thousands of mothers death are attributed to lack of breast feeding which can be easily prevented.

Today there is enough and robust evidence of protective effect of breast feeding from breast cancer. With a 12 month increase in lifetime breast feeding there is a reduction of 4.3% in incidence of invasive breast cancer, and the magnitude of protection is up to 7% for longer breast feeding durations. There is also a 30 % reduction in the incidence of ovarian cancer for longer breast feeding.

It is a well known fact that a continuous and uninterrupted action of oestrogen on breast tissues leads to cancer due to wear and tear phenomenon and the principal mechanism of pregnancy and breast feeding leading to protective effect on breast cancer is by reducing the oestrogen hormonal influence on breast. It means that there will be an oestrogen free holiday to breasts for this 2 years period of pregnancy and breast feeding. Also a sustained exfoliation of breast tissue during lactation and a continued apoptosis which is a programmed cell death leads to elimination of all cells with DNA damage and mutations.

A recent study published in journal of lancet shows that high income countries and societies have shorter breast feeding durations. This may be attributed to the busy working mothers especially the software employees with their project targets and deadlines. Creches near the work place, lactation rooms and breast feeding breaks make a big difference. Women who are supported in this way by their employers are more productive and loyal to their organizations. And also mothers should feel safe and welcome in public places.

Breast feeding is a natural, low cost way of feeding babies providing high quality nutrients and adequate energy preventing under nutrition and also obesity in kids. Every year first week of August is observed as world breast feeding week as a global campaign to raise awareness and galvanize action on themes related to breast feeding. This year world breast cancer week comes with a slogan of “empower parents, enable breast feeding”. In fact breast feeding is in the mother’s domain and only when the fathers, partner’s families, workplaces and communities support her, breast feeding improves. It is a team effort and to enable it we all collectively should promote, protect and support it.

I strongly believe that if there if there is strong indication to give formula milk it should be given with a lactation aid directed at the breast rather than in a bottle, as babies are still breast feeding. Happy breast feeding week.

The author is HOD and Senior Consultant Radiation Oncologist Continental Hospitals. She holds MBBS, MD (Radiation Oncology), DNB (Radiation Oncology), FRCR (UK) degrees

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