Health Advice For U


Breast 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  Genetic

Ø  Age

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  Diet

Ø  Diminished levels of physical activity

Ø  Obesity

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.


Tips to lower the risk of breast cancer

Avoid sedentary 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 advantages.


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 none.


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.


Weight Control: 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 HRT.


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 it.