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Our poor lifestyle habits have increased the risk of breast cancer

The change in lifestyle habits, increasing work pressure and stress levels have left us with no time to pay attention to our health. Acute and chronic diseases are on the rise especially cardiovascular disorders, stroke, diabetes, obesity and more. An increasing number of people are diagnosed with such ailments, and their families feel guilty for not having known and prioritised health before the damage was caused.

Globally, one such condition that has affected millions of lives is breast cancer. In India, women continue to be ill-informed and sceptical about breast cancer self-examinations, diagnosis and consulting doctors, leading to a heightened risk of the disease going unnoticed and proving to be fatal.

A survey by Avon shows that only two in five women are aware of the early signs of breast cancer and most women are unaware that their lifestyle choices could be increasing the risk of the disease.

Lifestyle choices

  • Physical activity: Don’t be proud of being laid back. It is only crucial that we keep our body fit at all stages of life. We need to sweat out all the toxins we are exposed to on a daily basis. Long brisk walks, cycling at a casual pace, jogging or moderate amount of physical activity is a must. Physical activities can reduce the risk of breast cancer.
  • Breastfeeding: Breastfeeding can reduce the chances of developing breast cancer by altering the balance of hormones in the body and by delaying the return of a woman’s periods.
  • Modern vices: The number of glasses of drinks you decide to consume on a Saturday evening, or the number of cigarettes you smoke to relieve stress, can increase your risk of breast cancer drastically. Also, for the night owls and Netflix lovers, it is advisable to find the right balance, as those who have irregular working hours, desk jobs and irregular sleep patterns are more likely to be diagnosed with the disease later in life.
  • Hormone therapy & contraceptive pills: Hormone replacement therapies and oral contraceptives are treatments you don’t need. Avoid using the popular HRT or contraception tablets to treat menopausal symptoms and unwanted pregnancy.
  • Pregnancy: Today, many women choose to have children late in life. However, studies show that an early pregnancy lowers the risks of breast cancer.
  • Obesity: Start eating healthy and avoid processed food. Putting on weight in adulthood (after the age of 18) because of unhealthy eating habits or being overweight after menopause can also lead to breast cancer.

Genetic factors

Surveys show that Caucasian women are more likely to develop breast cancer as compared to black, Asian or mixed-race women. In a small number of cases, breast cancer runs in the family. Of all women who develop breast cancer, up to 15% has a significant family history of the disease. Breast density can also predict breast cancer risk. Women with dense breasts are more prone to the condition than women with low breast density.

Few other causes that women tend to overlook are the excess use of deodorants and perfumes, under-wired bras, bumping or bruising of breasts, breast implants and abortions.

Early detection

With the latest technology, research and medicine, more women are able to survive the deadly disease than before. However, many still aren’t aware of their risks and don’t know what symptoms to watch out for, what to do and where to go if they have concerns.

According to studies, 70% of breast cancer cases are curable if detected early. One of the easiest ways to detect breast cancer is by conducting self-examinations. Breast self-examination involves just four simple steps and a few minutes in a month when made a ritual.

(The author is associated with AVON India and is a joint secretary of Indian Cancer Society)

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