Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women both in developed and the developing world. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the number of breast cancer, which claims lives of hundreds of thousands of women each year, will climb to an alarming figure by 2020 and one in every eight women would run the risk of getting the disease in her lifetime.
In India, there has been a steep rise in figures pertaining to women being diagnosed with breast cancer over the last two decades that the disease has been declared the most common form of cancer, almost exceeding cervical cancer as the deadliest of all cancers.
While there is no definite way to prevent breast cancer, there are things that women can do that might help them cut the risk of getting the disease in their life. Here are some of the best methods that health experts often recommend on how to prevent getting breast cancer:
Maintain a healthy body weight: Obesity is one of the main culprits that cause cancer among post menopausal women. One should avoid gaining weight over time and try to keep a body-mass index (BMI) less than 25.
Avoid or limit alcohol intake: Alcohol use is linked to an increased risk of breast cancer. Studies have shown that consuming more than one alcoholic beverage a day can boost breast cancer risk by as much as 20-25 percent.
Eat lots of fruits and vegetables:Try to include as much as fruits and vegetables in your daily diet. All cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts, cauliflower), dark leafy greens (collards, kale, spinach), carrots and tomatoes are some of the foods that have protection properties against breast cancer. Citrus, berries and cherries are superstar fruits for breast cancer protection.
Exercise regularly: Research suggests that regular exercise cuts overall breast cancer risk by about 10 to 30 percent. A moderate exercise like a 30-minute walk five or more days a week can be effective.
Know your carbs: Cut down on food with high glycemic index- white flour, white rice, white potatoes, sugar, etc, as these foods activate hormonal changes that help cellular growth in breast tissue. Instead, opt for whole grains and beans/legumes which have high fiber and lignan content.
Do your fats right: The type of oil that you consume can influence your breast cancer risk. Cut down on omega-6 fats, saturated fats and trans-fats. Instead increase your intake of omega-3 fats found in oily fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines, lake trout and herring. Also, it is advised to replace animal fats with vegetable oils. Olive oil, canola, avocadoes have anti-cancer properties.
Avoid smoking: Several studies have shown that long-term smoking is associated with increased risk of breast cancer in some women.
Breastfeeding: Women who breast feed their babies for at least a year in total have a lesser risk of developing breast cancer later.
Medication: Tamoxifen is an estrogen antagonist with proven benefit for the treatment of estrogen receptor positive breast cancer. Furthermore, tamoxifen reduces the incidence of a second primary breast cancer by 50% in women who received the drug as adjuvant therapy for a first breast cancer, said Dr Vathsala HT, MBBS, MS-General Surgery, (MCh) from PGIMER, Chandigarh.
Prophylactic bilateral mastectomy may be considered in patients with BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations.
Apart from these, monthly self-breast examination and annual clinical breast examination should be conducted.
Compiled by: Salome Phelamei