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Breast Cancer Awareness Month: These Steps Can Help Reduce The Risk Of Breast Cancer

The month of October is observed as Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month: These Steps Can Help Reduce The Risk Of Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women, worldwide. Therefore, it is crucial to recognize risk factors for breast cancer and what you can do to reduce the risk.

Breast cancer is associated with non-modifiable risk factors such as increasing age, female gender, early age of menarche, late age of menopause (after 55 years of age), and family history. However, there are also modifiable risk factors that you can control to reduce the risk, having the first child before the age of 30, and breastfeeding the child for at least 12 months reduces the risk of breast cancer in the mother. Additionally avoiding hormone replacement therapy after menopause (especially estrogen + progesterone) also reduces risk.

One of the most significant ways that can reduce the risk is by doing exercise and weight reduction. Obesity after menopause causes about 2 or 3 extra women out of every 100 to develop breast cancer. Women who get regular exercise (physical activity) have a 10%-20% lower risk of breast cancer risk. The American Cancer Society recommends getting 2 and a half -5 hours of moderate physical activity a week, or 1-2 hours of vigorous activity. Exercise helps control weight, lowers blood estrogen and boosts the immune system.

Other lifestyle factors associated with breast cancer risk include alcohol intake. Dietary modifications and breast cancer risk have no clear causative association. For example, you know that high-fat diets can lead to being overweight or obese, which is a known breast cancer risk factor. Some studies have also suggested that diets that are high in fruits and vegetables and calcium-rich dairy products, but low in red and processed meats might lower the risk of breast cancer. This remains an active area of research as do the intake of vitamins and soy and its impact on breast cancer risk.

Modifying the exposure to risk factors may help reduce risk , but one must still focus on being vigilant and aware and perform regular self-breast examinations monthly, and choose to do a screening mammography from the age of 40 to 74 once every two years. Early detection is the key to cure.

(Dr Nita Nair, Consultant - Breast Surgery, Apollo Cancer Centres, Navi Mumbai)

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