A Consultant Ocular Oncologist, Dr Abia Nzelu, says breastfeeding of babies protects mothers from ovarian, endometrial and breast cancer.
Nzelu, the Executive Secretary, Mass Medical Mission (MMM), said this in an interview on Wednesday in Lagos.
She said studies suggested that breastfeeding reduced breast cancer risk among women.
According to her, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer and a leading cause of death among women.
She explained that exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months of a baby’s life followed by continued breastfeeding until the child was at least 18 months old would protect the mother from breast, ovarian and endometrial cancer.
She added that “initiation of breastfeeding within the first hour of birth, followed by exclusive breastfeeding for six months and continued breastfeeding for up to two years or beyond offer a powerful line of defence against all forms of child malnutrition, including obesity.
“By breastfeeding, the mother is protected from breast cancer, which on the other hand keeps her alive with both breast intact to breastfeed her other children and live a healthy life.
“Women should know that indulging in formula-feeding is not a sign of class or sophistication but sheer ignorance.
“We cannot address the current huge and avoidable problem of child malnutrition without protecting and promoting breastfeeding.”
She noted that breastfeeding was the most cost effective way of preventing malnutrition, especially in developing countries like Nigeria.
Quoting the World Health Organisation (WHO), Nzelu said the risk of ovarian cancer was 27 per cent and breast cancer was four per cent higher in women who do not breastfeed.
She added that the risk of hypertension and cardiovascular disease also increased if a woman did not breastfeed.
The oncologist, however, decried the lack of adequate medical facilities for cancer treatment, which she said contributed to the challenge of managing cancer cases in the country.
According to her, there is no single existing Comprehensive Cancer Centre (CCC) in the country where diagnosed and established cancer cases can be fully treated so that patients will not need to travel abroad for treatment.
She emphasised the need to expedite efforts to establish the needed infrastructure for equitable cancer care across the country and to ensure progressive and sustained reduction in the overall cancer statistics.
“This buttresses the importance of establishing CCC for optimal cancer care in Nigeria.
“We must do everything to prevent and treat breast cancer so that women would not lose their potential to breastfeed their babies,” she said.