Breast cancer has become one of the most common types of cancer in the world among women. A recent study by AIIMS suggested that, in Delhi, 30 per cent of breast cancers were found in women below the age of 40 years.
According to the figures, an estimated 35 women had breast cancer while 17 men had lung cancer among 1 lakh people in 2015. This figure increased exponentially in 2022 with 34.9 per cent breast cancer from 2,657 to 3,611.
Experts have pointed out that lifestyle factors largely affect this gradual increase in breast cancer cases.
Dr Lavi Sindhu, Consultant, Birla Fertility & IVF, Lajpat Nagar, said that the major risk factors include an inactive lifestyle, obesity, alcohol consumption, a family history of cancer, radiation exposure, reproductive history (age at which menstruation began and age at which a woman became pregnant), tobacco use, and postmenopausal hormone therapy.
“Early detection through regular screenings and understanding risk factors can empower women to make informed choices about their health and well-being,” said Dr Lavi Sindhu.
Dr Aditi Chaturvedi, Senior Consultant, Breast Surgical Oncologist at Max Super Speciality Hospital, Saket, told IndiaToday.in said that lack of breastfeeding or shortened duration of breastfeeding may also increase the risk of cancer.
“Lack of breastfeeding or shortened duration of breastfeeding may also be contributory to this increased risk. Prolonged exposure to hormonal therapy in terms of oral contraceptive pills and other hormonal agents can also increase a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer,” said Dr Aditi Chaturvedi.
She added that obesity is known to be another risk factor for postmenopausal women, but overall, a high-calorie diet, processed food intake, and decreased consumption of fruits and vegetables do lead to weight gain and increased risk of a variety of diseases, including breast cancer.
Dr Jyoti Wadhwa, Vice-Chairperson & HOD Medical Oncology and Hematology, Paras Health, Gurugram, echoed similar opinions about lifestyle choices contributing to the increased risk of breast cancer.
“While hereditary factors contribute to around 10 per cent of cases, the major driving force behind breast cancer remains rooted in lifestyle choices,” said Dr Wadhwa.
The expert added, “Factors such as longer life expectancies, delayed age of first childbirth, absence of childbirth, obesity, and alcohol consumption play pivotal roles in this trend.”
Dr Chaturvedi also said that breast cancer among younger women poses a big challenge because detection and management of these cancers is complex and has major physical, social, financial and emotional implications.
“The reasons for this increase are hypothesised to be mainly related to changing lifestyle. Increased oestrogen exposure due to early onset of periods, late menopause, delayed first pregnancy after the age of 30 or nulliparity i.e. no pregnancy are also implicated in increasing the risk of breast cancer,” said Dr Chaturvedi.