breast
File photo: Breast cancer

Social media users and many online portals have circulated stories that suggest that the suckling of breasts, especially by spouses or partners, can reduce chances of breast cancer in both men and women.

A Facebook post on March 18th, 2021, which suggested that women do not like their breasts sucked, generated comments which once again brought out the claim in question.

Members of the group within which the post was published responded, with many highlighting breast sucking as a remedy or preventative measure for breast cancer.

Other posts claimed the ‘remedy’ has been recommended by health experts.

“Doctors recommend that women reduce the risk of breast cancer, by having their breasts sucked. In a BBC news publication, it was reported that regular sucking of the breast lowers the risk of cancer. The breasts must be sucked as often as possible, to help women fight breast cancer. Please Suck and Save a Life Today.- Cancer Research.”

A leading online news platform also carried this news in July 2010.

Dubawa set out to uncover if breast suckling among partners and mother to child can prevent the development of breast cancer.


Verification

We found that although a lot has been written on the level of truth of this claim, many continue to circulate and believe the veracity of the claim.

Dubawa spoke to Dr Bismark Dwobeng, a medical doctor at the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (Radiation Oncologist), who attested to having heard this claim. He said that as an oncologist, however, he does not believe that there is any truth in the claim.

“What we know about the breast being sucked is for babies because there is evidence for mothers who are able to breastfeed their children having reduced risks. Even in this case, we cannot say necessarily that it prevents breast cancer. What we can say is that the risks are reduced for women who breastfeed.”

Dr Dwobeng added that though the claim is untrue, some truth may be in the assertion in terms of detection of breast cancer.

“In Ghana, most women are affected with breast cancer at late stages. So the little truth is that maybe, just maybe, if someone has access to your breast frequently, then there will be a higher chance that any change to the breast may be identified. Someone seeing the breast can tell if there has been a change in look or weight or size. In that case, partners can contribute to diagnosing breast cancer early rather than the late cases that we have been recording,” Dr Dwobeng said.


After a rigorous search on the BBC website, scanning through over 20 pages of content on breast cancer-related reports, our search revealed a 2002 article on BBC titled ‘Extra breastfeeding prevents cancer.’ Excerpts of the report state that: “Thousands of women might be spared the agony of breast cancer if they extended the period for which they suckle their babies.”

The article does not make mention of adult suckling of the breast preventing breast cancer development. It does, however, add that extended breastfeeding could remedy breast cancer development in breastfeeding women.

Dubawa has also reached out to BBC to find out if they have ever published a report claiming that breast sucking by partners can reduce the chances of developing breast cancer.

According to the Center for Disease Control, breastfeeding lowers the risks of developing breast cancer in mothers.

Dubawa also came across articles that clear the air on the claim of breast sucking and breast cancer prevention.

In October 2018, the media published an article that indicated that men sucking on breasts will not prevent breast cancer development. The study cited Dr Naa Adorkor Ayeetey, who was then a Senior Resident Doctor at the Radiotherapy Department of the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital. According to the video embedded in the report, it is a fallacy to think that sucking the breasts of partners will reduce the risk of breast cancer.

“There is a single truth. Breastfeeding a baby will reduce your risk of getting cancer. Breastfeeding a man on the other hand will not reduce the risk but it will not increase your risk either. The reason is that when you are breastfeeding a baby, you produce a certain hormone that reduces the estrogen in your blood and so you are protected. When breastfeeding a man, that does not happen and so you are not protected.”

A similar report with the same conclusion was published by Punch Nigeria in October 2019.

Conclusion

Having your partner suck on your breasts will not prevent or reduce chances of developing breast cancer. However, it may help identify changes in the breast, prompting further tests to ascertain if one has breast cancer.