Every year 1.1 lakh new cases of breast cancer are reported in India, and what’s more alarming is that majority of them are in the age group of 25-30. A study conducted by the Indian Council of Medical Research and National Cancer Registry Data in October, that’s celebrated as the Breast Cancer Awareness Month across the globe, further reveals that one in every 25-30 year-old woman in urban India is likely to develop breast cancer as opposed to one in every 65-70 year-old in rural India. The reason is obvious — unhealthy lifestyles, say doctors.
The main triggers
From stress to unhealthy diet and late motherhood, the triggers are many. “More and more breast cancer cases are being seen among younger women due to their bad lifestyles that include irregular sleeping habits, high stress levels and unhealthy diet. All this tends to mess up the hormonal activities, increasing the risk of breast cancer,” says Dr Kadayaprath Geeta, Oncology surgeon at Max Hospital. “Adding to it is the late child-bearing age of most women these days. Having kids early alters the hormonal environment favourably, apart from establishing early lactation that has been found to be protective, preventing the development of breast cancer,” adds Dr Geeta.
Obesity and breast cancer
Obesity is also a prime cause of breast cancer. “Consumption of saturated fats through junk food may pose a risk. Gorging on junk food may also make you obese. Lack of exercise, whether because you are using lifts or escalators, also contributes to obesity, increasing the risk of breast cancer,” says Neelanjana Singh, chief nutritionist, PSRI Hospital.
Mind your diet
A diet based on plant food is known to decrease the risk of breast cancer. Two-third of your plate should comprise of plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables and beans. The whole group of veggies called cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower, are known to be anti-cancer agents. They contain a compound called Sulforaphane that reduces the number of breast cancer stem cells. Green tea and green leafy vegetables also have properties that decrease the risk of breast cancer. The other fruits and vegetables that can reduce the risk of cancer are tomatoes and watermelon. Taking fish-oil supplements also shrinks the risk of ductal carcinoma, the most common type of breast cancer.
By Neelanjana Singh, nutritionist
Breast cancer is 100% curable if diagnosed on time, and for timely detection, remember the following:
Stay aware: People should be aware of their own body parts. Also, remember that feeling shy may cost your life so, if you
identify any abnormal swelling or a lump in any portion of your breast, immediately talk to a family member and consult a doctor.
Regular screening: Whether there’s any lump or not, regular screening of your breast and mammography is a must after the age of 20.
Family history: If you have a strong family history of breast cancer, then you should be doubly careful and stay alert.
What to avoid
Junk food: The amount of saturated fats that go onto junk foods like fried foods and burgers may pose a risk. Sugary and fat laden food is also harmful as they may lead to being overweight, thereby increasing the risk for breast cancer.
Preservatives: It’s best to avoid foods that are loaded with preservatives. This includes both canned colas as well as frozen or salted meats and fish.
Alcohol: Increasing the intake of alcohol above the prescribed limit may pose a risk. The limit for women is not more than one drink a day, so make sure that you stick to this limit.
Hormonal pills: Do not take hormonal medicines for a very long period of time. Most importantly, do not go on any self-medication of estrogens unless medically indicated, as estrogen plays a vital role in the development of breast cancer.