Unhealthy Lifestyle Can Raise Breast Cancer Risks

  • Breast cancer cases rising worldwide
  • Weight gain, modern lifestyle, non-breastfeeding – prime causes
  • Genetic testing – a predictor tool
  • Regular timely screening is a must
  • World Health Organization recommends Self Breast Examination

The number of breast cancer cases has increased rapidly over the last few years worldwide. Unhealthy lifestyle is being blamed as one of the major reason for this surge.  Fat from the meals is best source of food for the tumour cells to grow. This is more commonly seen in post-menopausal ladies because women in this age tend to gain more weight and accumulate more fat. Excess fat stores in the body produce some kind of hormones that lead to the development of such disease. Persistent high cholesterol levels in the blood have an important role in increasing the chances of developing cancer in older adults.

Lowering the body weight can effectively decreases the risk for degenerative changes and such life-threatening diseases. Every 10 kg extra body weight puts a woman at cancer risk by 5 years early. Active lifestyle lessens the risk for breast cancer by almost 4.5%.

Irregular sleeping patterns also have damaging impacts on health. Researches show that women with family history of breast cancer should never work in shifts and avoid being flight attendants. These kind of jobs disrupt the body’s biological rhythm, which increases the risk of disease. Other factors contributing while working in shifts include activity levels and Vitamin D levels they get. Studies have shown a link between light-dark inversions and breast cancer development.

According to Dr. JB Sharma, Sr. Consultant, Medical Oncology Action Cancer Hospital, New Delhi says Regular screening of breasts can actually help women. Mammograms are good at finding even the small breast cancers. This is actually the goal of screening; to identify the disease when least aggressive treatments can cure. Annual breast screening must begin at the age of 40 years. Thousands of lives get saved because of early detection.

Recently, actress Angelina Jolie got her breast surgery done so as to reduce her breast cancer chances. Per her genetic profile testing, she inherited BRCA1 gene from her mother who died of ovarian cancer. BRCA1 gene posed her to risk of both ovarian and breast cancer. She was told to have around 87% chance of developing breast cancer. Double mastectomy (breast removal) she decided to have reduced her chance to almost 5%.

About 1 in 1000 people carry damaged form of this gene and their chance of getting the disease is far higher than a normal person. An average lady has about 12 % chance of getting the disease, while woman with this gene has 60-90% chance of getting breast cancer.

Breast feeding is another personal choice with many benefits, both for the mother and the baby. It is a natural process, and the hormonal changes after childbirth help a lady breastfeed (lactate) and the babies are also born knowing the sucking reflex. Recovery after delivery for a woman is very quick for those who breastfeed and the risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, ovarian and breast cancer are also reduced. These days new mothers tend to avoid breastfeeding thinking that their figure will go for a toss. But, the fact remains that breastfeeding helps the new mothers shed the extra weight easily.

Dr. Atul Srivastava, Sr. Consultant, Surgical Oncology, Dharamshila Narayana Superspeciality Hospital Women need to put more attention to their body weight, inspect their breasts regularly, get their breasts examined at the clinic routinely, and mammogram every years after 40 years of age. Breast Self Examination (BSE) is a screening tool so as to attempt detecting early breast cancer. It involves looking at and feeling each breast one week after menses for any possible lump, swelling, or change in the normal appearance. Healthy life style can reduce breast cancer related death.

Dr. Sweta Gupta Clinical Director and Senior Consultant- Fertility Solutions, Medicover Fertility

Cancer is on rise, with medical interventions the survival rate has increased but cancer treatment lowers their ability to father or mother a child i.e. their fertility. Treatments like surgery, chemotherapy or radiotherapy can decrease ovarian reserve or sperms.

Timely counselling and intervention can provide these individuals an opportunity to preserve their fertility while they undergo treatment for the above conditions. For men option of sperm banking and for females egg freezing are standard options which are usually available at fertility centers which can be considered before planning treatment. There are some options like donor gametes program which can be considered in cases where reserve is already low.

Multidisciplinary team approach with oncologists, fertility specialists, family physicians, psychologists, urologists, gynecologists, counselors is required for optimum results.

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