Late marriages, delayed or no pregnancy and stressful careers are some of the reasons medical experts cite for the rise of breast cancer cases among well-to-do educated Mumbai women.
The analysis was a part of a discussion at a conference on breast cancer held at Tata Memorial Hospital on Sunday morning.
Quoting statistics complied on the basis of data coming in from the Indian Council of Medical Research, Dr Sudeep Gupta, associate professor of Medical Oncology at Tata Memorial Centre (TMC), said that in Mumbai, 27 new cases of breast cancer are registered per 1 lakh woman every year.
“In Mumbai over the past 25 years, we have noticed that breast cancer increase by 1.4 per cent every year,” said Gupta.
Gupta added that in urban woman, the prominent reasons for the disease were —women having their first child at an older age, having a less number of children and a noticeable drop in breast feeding frequency and duration due to the busy schedules of working mothers. Other factors affecting the rise of breast cancer cases were early beginning of menstrual cycles in young girls, delayed menopause in middle-aged women, hormonal replacement therapies and obesity.
Trends for the disease however differ in the women coming from low socio-economic backgrounds. “Amongst such women we have noticed more cases of cervical cancer which have a different set of causes and symptoms than breast cancer,” said Dr K Mohandas, dean, TMC. Explaining details about the causes of cervical cancer, Mohandas said cervical cancer is caused due to reasons that are opposite in nature to those of the breast cancer. Multiple pregnancies, early pregnancies and a weak immune system are amongst the leading causes for cervical cancer in socio-economically backward women. He added that in Mumbai, 13 women out of every 1 lakh suffer from cervical cancer.
However, both types of cancers are emerging as a big threat for city women. Devika Bhojwani, vice-president, Women Cancer initiative, an NGO working closely with TMC to fight the disease said, “To curb the growing problem of both the kinds of cancers (breast and cervical) in women the most important thing needed is early screening of the disease.” Bhojwani further highlighted that most cancer cases are detected at an advanced stage due to lack of awareness amongst women.
Presently, the Indian Council of Medical Research is evaluating the efficacy and safety of vaccines that protect against Human Papilloma Virus, one of the causative factors for cervical cancer — the most prevalent type of cancer in India.