The incidence of breast cancer among Indian women has risen in the last 25 years. It is the most common cancer and is the leading cause of cancer deaths. In fact, a recent study of breast cancer risk in India revealed that one in 28 women develops breast cancer during her lifetime.
Breast cancer when detected early and treated appropriately can be completely cured.
Simple techniques like breast self- examination once in a month by women 20 years and above and Mammogram once in a year by women 40 years and above can help in early detection. If breast cancer is detected early, the treatment becomes simpler, shorter, cheaper and most importantly complete cure is possible.
There is no single cause for breast cancer, “It is caused by the interplay of our genes, the environment we live in and lifestyle factors.” In addition to going for mandatory screenings and tests, you can make lifestyle changes to lower your risk.
Here are 7 ways to reduce your risk of developing breast cancer
1. Physical activities: Experts say that being active reduces a woman’s risk of breast cancer. Exercise reduces the number of fat cells, which are responsible for the release of hormones such as estrogen and testosterone. It is these fat cells that are thought to encourage tumor growth. Women should aim for 30 minutes of moderate physical activity a day. This can reduce breast cancer risk by at least 20 per cent.
2. Breastfeed your baby: Women who breast-feed for a year are five per cent less likely to develop breast cancer than those who don’t breast-feed at all. The longer a woman breast-feeds, the lower her chances of getting the disease. It’s thought that breast-feeding lowers the levels of cancer-related hormones in the mother’s blood. When breast-feeding ends, the body gets rid of damaged cells that could turn cancerous.
3. Drink less alcohol: Regularly drinking alcohol increases the risk of developing breast cancer.
4. Curtail night shifts: Women who work at least three night shifts a week for six years or more are twice as likely to develop breast cancer. However, more studies need to be done to substantiate this
5. Reduce cholesterol: Women who take statins (drugs that lower cholesterol levels) for more than a decade face doubling the risk of developing invasive ductal carcinoma, or IDC, the most common type of breast cancer. While studies suggest the short-term use of statins appears to have a protective effect against breast cancer, in the long run, statins may damage certain chemical pathways that lead to the growth of tumors. However, do not stop taking statins without consulting the doctor.
6. Avoid unhealthy chemicals: Don’t use canned food and drinks and don’t micro-wave food in plastic containers, warns nutritionist. They contain chemicals that behave like estrogens, increasing breast cancer risk. High temperature barbecuing, grilling or frying meat can trigger the production of acrylamide that also increase cancer risk so try to cook meat gently and make an effort to avoid preserved meats as well.
7. Step out in the sun: Natural sunlight is the best way of increasing stores of vitamin D, which can lower your risk of breast cancer. Laboratory tests suggest breast cells can convert vitamin D to a hormone that has anti-cancer properties.
Dr Jayanti S. Thumsi, MBBS, MS, Clinical Attachment is a Breast Oncologist.Read more