It is October. That means pink everywhere and lots of talk about "the cure." I've been known to purposefully wear blue on "pink out" days. Why? Because so many well-known "non-profits" who tout "...for the cure..." spend a majority of their money on advertising and very little on actually curing cancer.
And I feel that prevention is the best medicine. So, for those of you who are also interested in preventing breast cancer, this is for you.
What seems to be the best prevention for breast cancer? Letting your body BE. Limit hormonal birth control or other hormone supplements during your lifetime. Don't drink or smoke (in excess) and eat a healthy diet full of fresh fruits and vegetables and low in saturated (animal) fats.
Oh, and having and feeding your babies is one of the best things you can do! One study (a large, reliable study) showed that for every baby you birth, you lower your risk by 7%. For each year you breastfeed, you lower your risk by 4.3%.
Doesn't sound like a lot?
I'm an American Caucasian woman with no family history of breast cancer, so I have an 87% chance of NOT getting breast cancer. That means just about a 13% chance that I will. The odds are just over 1 out of 10. And here's where I get a little math happy. By having 2 kids, I've lower my risk by 7% each time to just over 11%. By breastfeeding for a total of just shy of 76 months (that's over 6 years!) I've probably decreased my overall risk by more than 50% giving me a less than 5% chance of developing breast cancer or reducing my odds to less than 1 out of 20. This agrees with a 2010 study that indicates if you breastfeed for a total of 4 years or longer your risk of breast cancer is reduced to less than 6%.
Does that mean I'll never develop breast cancer? Certainly it does not, but I won't stop wearing my seatbelt or stop putting my children in car seats just because I'm a decently safe driver and have less than a 1% chance (1 out of 100) of getting in a car accident that could fatally injure myself or my children. As a matter of fact, earlier this year I had a scan. Despite knowing that my risk of breast cancer was so low, I was still terrified of what the scan would show. I don't want women to have to experience that!
So how do we keep women from feeling like breast cancer is inevitable? Let's look at it this way....
I graduated high school with around 270 people, Let's say 150 of them were women.
If we go with the "average" 20 of those women (13%) will develop breast cancer. But if we all had 2 kids and breastfed for 4 years (the World Health Organization recommends you breastfeed for a minimum of 2 years for each child) the odds would drop to 9% or only 13 women leaving 7 women who would never even have to face breast cancer....just in my graduating high school class.
Still not convinced?
Now let's look at America. There are over 150 million women in America. On "average" 20 MILLION will face breast cancer. If everyone had 2 children, and breastfed for about 4 years, that lowers to 13 million. Again, 7 are left... but this time 7 MILLION women would never have to face breast cancer. Just...by... birthing and breastfeeding. Isn't that amazing?! And the "experts" think that the lowering of the risk could be even greater in women who have a family history.
Oh, and breastfeeding a baby girl reduces her risk of developing the disease also. My little one (who does have a family history of breast cancer) will have a much lower risk of developing the disease after being breastfed for a physiologically normal amount of time and (hopefully) being able to go on and breastfeed her own children.
Every year, every month, every day you breastfeed lowers your risk and your child's risk for breast and ovarian cancers not to mention other health conditions such as osteoporosis, diabetes and heart disease.
Some women choose not to breastfeed, and that's not what this post is about. It's about what we can do to teach women the risks of not breastfeeding (or if you would rather, the life-saving benefits of breastfeeding) and to support women who want to breastfeed.
This October, I challenge you to look at how you can cure breast cancer by preventing breast cancer. Support a mom who is breastfeeding, provide information to a pregnant woman, attend a breast feeding event or donate to a breastfeeding non-profit.