Breast Cancer Awareness - A quick Guide

Cancer is a huge issue in both developed and emerging countries, especially breast cancer. In Pakistan, breast cancer is found to be a chief, among all other types of cancers.

There is also an upward trend of breast cancer in Pakistani population due to lack of awareness and facilities.

It is estimated that the prevalence of breast cancer among Pakistani women is 41% and is mostly seen between thirty to thirty nine years of age group*1

Various factors are responsible for breast cancer such as genetics, diet, chemicals, and environmental factors* 2, like Toxic particles present in smoke, paints and even in air are one of the major causes of genetic mutation which in turn prove to be carcinogenic* 3

Many risk factors associated with an increased risk of breast cancer are modifiable, such as Physical inactivity. There is no convincing evidence that inactivity is associated with an increased risk of breast cancer, but physical exercise appears to protect against breast cancer in both premenopausal and postmenopausal women.

Both passive and active tobacco smoking have been associated with an increased risk of breast cancer, especially among premenopausal women. Early initiation, longer duration, and number of cigarettes smoked are associated with increase risk.

Dietary pattern
Some studies have shown that high consumption of a diet composed predominantly of fruits and vegetables resulted in a lower risk of breast cancer.

Dietary fat intake
An association between high intake of dietary fat and breast cancer has been seen, although the overall effect appears small.
Consumption of red meat. Eating more than five servings of red meat per week may be associated with an increased risk of premenopausal breast cancer.

Calcium/vitamin D
Diets low in calcium and vitamin D have been associated with an increased breast cancer risk in premenopausal but not in postmenopausal women.

There is no evidence for an effect of intake of vitamin A, E, or C or beta-carotene on breast cancer risk.

Phytoestrogens are naturally occurring plant substances with a chemical structure similar to estrogen(hormone). They are found in high concentrations in soy beans and other legumes, in variety of fruits, vegetables, and cereal products. There is little evidence that soy-rich diets prevent breast cancer and dietary soy does not appear to increase breast cancer risk either.

There is no strong association between caffeine intake and breast cancer risk.

Alcohol consumption as low as three drinks per week significantly increases risk of breast cancer. The risk increases with greater alcohol consumption and there is no difference by the type of alcohol (wine versus beer versus liquor).

Environment Factor

Exposure to ionizing radiation
Exposure to ionizing radiation of the chest at a young age, as occurs with treatment of Hodgkin lymphoma or in survivors of atomic bomb or nuclear plant accidents, is associated with an increased risk of breast cancer.

Night-shift work

Women who work at night have a higher risk of breast cancer compared with women who do not do night shifts. The primary reason for this remains unknown, but may be tied to the hormone melatonin, which is normally produced at night.

Miscellaneous factors
Organochlorines include polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dioxins, and organochlorine pesticides such as dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) are capable of persisting in body tissues for years. However, an association with breast cancer has not been demonstrated.
Cosmetic breast implants, electromagnetic fields, electric blankets, and hair dyes have not been associated with breast cancer risk.

Some studies show that patients who use aspirin or ibuprofen have a lower risk of breast cancer. Role of Bisphosphonates, commonly used for the treatment of osteoporosis and for women with breast cancer with evidence of bone loss attributed to cancer treatment, as a true protector against breast cancer is unclear.

Although screening mammography does not reduce the risk of developing breast cancer, it significantly decreases the risk of dying from breast cancer.

A number of lifestyle changes may reduce breast cancer risk:
●Planning for first birth before the age of 30.
●Breastfeeding for at least six months.
●Avoidance or limited duration of use of menopausal hormone therapy.
●Avoidance or cessation of smoking.
●Limiting alcohol intake.
●Maintenance of a healthy weight.
●Limiting night-shift work.
●Adopting a physically active lifestyle. This should include at least 150 minutes of weekly moderate-intensity activity, 75 minutes of weekly vigorous-intensity activity, or at least some physical activity above one’s usual routine, in addition to limiting sedentary behaviour.

1. (Usmani et al., 1996).
2. (Hafeez et al., 2009).
3. . (Tanveer et al., 2014).

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