Woman's Era - - Short Story - By Dr. Sankar Srini­vasan

In re­cent years, In­dia has wit­nessed an in­creas­ing num­ber of breast can­cer cases, mak­ing preven­tion of breast can­cer a top health pri­or­ity. In 2016 alone, about 1.45 lakh In­dian women were newly di­ag­nosed with the disease, mak­ing it one of the lead­ing can­cers that af­flicts women in our coun­try. Some risk fac­tors for breast can­cer are dif­fi­cult to con­trol, like age, hav­ing dense breast tis­sue, be­ing pre­vi­ously di­ag­nosed with a non­cancer­ous breast disease, hav­ing a fam­ily his­tory of can­cer or be­ing born with a ge­netic pre­dis­po­si­tion to can­cer.

How­ever, de­spite the risk fac­tors, it is es­ti­mated that one-fifth to one-third of all breast can­cers can be pre­vented with sim­ple, daily mea­sures. Here is how:

Less is more: Be­ing over­weight/obese or sud­denly gain­ing weight is linked to a higher risk of breast can­cer, es­pe­cially after menopause. So, do your best to stay within a healthy weight range, de­pend­ing on your height and keep your body mass in­dex (BMI) less than 23 kg/m2.

Get mov­ing: Be­ing phys­i­cally ac­tive and ex­er­cis­ing reg­u­larly are linked to a lower risk of breast can­cer. Make sure you do at least 150 min­utes of mod­er­ate-in­ten­sity ex­er­cise such as walk­ing at about 5 km/hour, bi­cy­cling at less than 16 km/hour, light danc­ing or 75 min­utes of vig­or­ous-in­ten­sity ex­er­cises such as brisk walk­ing, jog­ging, run­ning, jump­ing rope, aer­o­bic danc­ing or hik­ing at least once in a week.

Proper sleep: Set your alarm clock for at least 7 hours from the time you fall asleep. Lack of suf­fi­cient sleep dur­ing the night can in­crease your risk.

Look be­fore you eat: Eat suf­fi­cient fruits, veg­eta­bles, nuts, seeds, legumes, low-fat dairy and lean meats and cut down on fat. Limited data sug­gest that eat­ing non-starchy veg­eta­bles such as leafy greens, cab­bage, cu­cum­ber and let­tuce can lower the risk of de­vel­op­ing a cer­tain type of breast can­cer that is rare but hard to treat. Di­ets high in cal­cium and carotenoids (apri­cots, car­rots, spinach) may also help lower the risk of breast can­cers.

Kick and quit: Smok­ing and drink­ing are linked to a num­ber of dis­eases and there is in­creas­ing ev­i­dence that they may in­crease the risk of breast can­cer. Al­co­hol and to­bacco can work to­gether to dam­age cells in the body.

Breast­feed­ing helps: Breast­feed your ba­bies for as long as pos­si­ble. It is not only ben­e­fi­cial for the lit­tle ones, but also helps to lower your risk of breast can­cer.

High risk, rad­i­cal reme­dies

A few years ago, ev­ery­one took no­tice when a celebrity un­der­went

a risk-re­duc­ing mas­tec­tomy (re­moval of breasts) to lower her breast can­cer risk. Such mea­sures are ex­treme and only rec­om­mended for a few women at a high risk of breast can­cer. An­other op­tion called “ovar­ian ab­la­tion” refers to treat­ment or surgery to re­duce es­tro­gen pro­duc­tion by the ovaries. Some pre­scrip­tion medicines can also help re­duce the risk. All these op­tions come with their own side­ef­fects and are there­fore only rec­om­mended for a few, high-risk pa­tients.

Sci­en­tists and re­searchers across the world con­tinue to in­vest sev­eral hours and mil­lions of dol­lars re­search­ing dif­fer­ent as­pects of breast can­cer, in­clud­ing other fac­tors that may be linked to the de­vel­op­ment of this disease, so that we can bet­ter pre­vent it. For ex­am­ple, a re­cently con­cluded study that was car­ried out over 14 years with more than 1 mil­lion peo­ple in­di­cated that women who were be­ing treated with statins (for high choles­terol lev­els) had lower rates of breast can­cer and death re­lated to breast can­cer. This cer­tainly does not mean that ev­ery­one should start tak­ing statins – but per­haps it will guide re­search and preven­tion mea­sures in the fu­ture.

Pre­vent­ing breast can­cer in­volves lifestyle changes and a life time of healthy choices which are well worth your ef­forts.

Dr. Sankar Srini­vasan On­col­o­gist, Apollo Can­cer In­sti­tute, Chen­nai.

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