Cancer in India
Currently, breast cancer is the most
common cancer among women in the world. In India, it is the number one female cancer.
The major reason for the low survival rate
of breast cancer in India is that the awareness about the disease is very low. Most cases are discovered at the
third or fourth stage where treatment is difficult. A lot of younger women in India get aggressive cancer and seek
help late. Around 50% of the cases live no more than 5 years after detection.
Risk Factors for breast cancer in India
include the following:
Ø Family History
Ø Type of breast tissue
Ø Age at which menstruation begins and ends (getting first
period before 12 years of age and reaching menopause after 55 are risk factors)
Ø Lifestyle related
Ø Environmental factors
Ø Tobacco and Alcohol consumption
Ø Diminished levels of physical activity
Ø High body mass index
Periodical testing and risk assessment can
greatly reduce the mortality rate through early detection. There are also simple prevention techniques like
lifestyle intervention and regular screening which allow early diagnosis and treatment. These are two most
important factors in combating breast cancer.
lower the risk of breast cancer
lifestyle: Exercise lowers the risk
of breast cancer and being inactive increases the risk. The more you exercise, the lower your risk for breast
cancer. However, the protection depends on whether or not you are postmenopausal, whether the exercise is
moderate or vigorous and how long you can stay active. Starting well before you are menopausal has its
At least 30 minutes of brisk exercise per
day is required for lowering the risk. More importantly, avoid being sedentary. Any activity is better than
Exercise reduces oestrogen levels in
postmenopausal women and improves the immune system. If you exercise outdoors, vitamin D exposure from the sun may
even make a difference and reduce risk of arthritis. Apart from reducing risk for cancer, exercise also reduces the
risk of heart disease.
Getting enough sleep is also key to
preventing cancer. Sufficient sleep allows body to produce sufficient natural killer cells which are first line of
defence against tumour cells. Good sleep also allows body to clear out toxins, which accumulate and become a
potential risk for cancer.
Being overweight or obsess in later adulthood
is a clear risk factor for postmenopausal breast cancer. Maintaining a healthy weight protects against other
types of cancer and also against diabetes and stroke.
Avoid Hormone Replacement
Therapy: Post menopause, oestrogen
levels sharply decline, causing hot flashes, sleep disruption and vaginal dryness. Hormone Replacement
Therapy (HRT) is used to treat these symptoms. It involves taking oestrogen supplements in combination with
another hormone, progestin. But as per expert opinion, 15% of all breast cancer cases are caused by
Even though HRT increases the risk of
breast cancer, it can also make a huge improvement in the quality of life in some women with severe postmenopausal
symptoms. Hence, each woman needs to carefully assess the pros and cons of HRT and make an informed decision after
due consultation with her doctor. Although HRT is not common in India, choosing HRT is to be done after considering
all the risk factors including the family history of the disease.
Reduce Alcohol intake:
Drinking alcohol increases the risk of several
different cancers, including colorectal and liver cancers. Drinking a small glass of wine or beer a day
increases the risk of breast cancer by 5% in premenopausal women and by 9% in postmenopausal women. Small
glass of wine or beer contains 10 gm of alcohol.
Intake of alcohol increases oestrogen and
increased levels of oestrogen are associated with breast cancer. When alcohol is metabolized, it is converted into
a toxic called acetaldehyde, which can damage DNA and interfere with the body’s ability to repair