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A study at the University of Oxford has found that lower rates of breast cancer among Indian and other south Asian women as compared to white women in Britain were due to differences in lifestyle and reproductive patterns.
South Asian and black women in the study by the university’s Cancer Epidemiology Unit had more children than white women, were more likely to breastfeed them, and were less likely to drink alcohol and to have a first-degree relative with breast cancer.
Breast cancer incidence rates in England are known to be lower in black and South Asian women than in white women, but the reasons for the difference have not been fully understood. The research has been published in the British Journal of Cancer.
The research team used data from the Million Women Study to show that South Asian women had an 18% lower rate of breast cancer incidence compared with white women. Black women had a 15% lower rate of breast cancer incidence.
Many of the black and South Asian women in the study were first-generation immigrants to the UK. The researchers suggest that, as subsequent generations change their lifestyles, it is likely that their risk of breast cancer will increase.
Toral Gathani from the University of Oxford said: “In this study of largely postmenopausal women in England, we see that lower risk of breast cancer in South Asian and black women is explained by differences in lifestyle and reproductive patterns”.