October 13th – No Bra Day. Exciting as this may sound, I’m sorry to burst your bubble. This Breast Cancer Awareness month I thought I might help us all out with a gentle reminder. What I am going to talk about is already something that you might have read multiple times on the internet.
In case you were wondering what made me write this- Born to doctor parents, I voluntarily chose to opt out of this field. Back then I was sure I did not have an affinity for the sciences. Right now, an MBA in marketing has helped me get a job that I love, and also leaves me with time to pursue my passions. Healthy living is one of the subjects that I am passionate about, and take a keen interest in discussing matters related to health, fitness, and sometimes medicine. If things get too technical, I do like learning new things. There are times when people around me discuss technicalities & complications that I find myself comprehending easily. Since I am not a doctor myself, I won’t be getting too technical with the information on this post. All that I am looking at is spreading awareness about breast cancer.
The information in this post has been compiled from various sources like- www.breastcancer.org, www.nationalbreastcancer.org/ (you can also make donations here), www.cancer.org, www.mayoclinic.org, www.cdc.gov and womenshealth.about.com
Understanding Breast Cancer
Cancer occurs as a result of mutations, or abnormal changes, in the genes responsible for regulating the growth of cells and keeping them healthy. Cancer cells are particularly those that multiply at a fast rate. Breast cancer is an uncontrolled growth of breast cells, a malignant tumor in the breast. 85-90% of breast cancers are due to genetic abnormalities that happen as a result of the aging process and the “wear and tear” of life in general. There are steps that can be taken to minimize the risk of breast cancer.
There is a list of factors responsible for breast cancer. Some of the factors are under our control, while some of them can’t be changed. Few of the known risk factors are-
Age, Genes and Family History
The older you grow, the more the chances of you getting breast cancer. If you have relatives who’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer, your risk increases- and it’s doubled if a first degree female relative has been diagnosed with it. 5%-10% of breast cancers are also hereditary.
If you have had radiation to your chest previously (maybe for another cancer, or for a disease) you do have a high risk of breast cancer. If you have had radiation to the face (maybe to treat acne?) you are at a higher risk of developing breast cancer.
Overweight and obese women have a higher risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer compared to women who maintain a healthy weight, especially after menopause.
Pregnancy and Breast Feeding
Women who haven’t had a full-term pregnancy or have their first child after age 30 have a higher risk of breast cancer compared to women who gave birth before the age of 30. Breastfeeding can lower breast cancer risk, especially if a woman breastfeeds for longer than 1 year.
If your menses stared before the age of 12, and/or if you have menopause post 55, you stand at a higher risk of breast cancer.
Research shows that drinking liquor and smoking increases your risk of breast cancer. Second hand smoke exposure also increases your chances of breast cancer.
Research shows that exercising for 4-7 hours every week can reduce your risk of breast cancer.
Exposure to Chemicals When Food Is Grilled/Prepare
Research has shown that women who ate a lot of grilled, barbecued, and smoked meats & very few fruits and vegetables had a higher risk of breast cancer compared to women who didn’t eat a lot of grilled meats.
Vitamin D may play a role in controlling normal breast cell growth and may be able to stop breast cancer cells from growing. A lack of Vit D increases the risk of breast cancer.
No food/diet can prevent breast cancer, but some foods can definitely help you boost your immune system & help minimize the risk of breast cancer.
Exposure to Chemicals in Cosmetics
Research strongly suggests that at certain exposure levels, some of the chemicals in cosmetics may contribute to the development of cancer in people.
Exposure to Chemicals in Food
Pesticides, antibiotics and hormones used on crops and livestock may lead to an increase in breast cancer risk.
Exposure to Chemicals in Sunscreen
While chemicals can protect us from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays, research strongly suggests that at certain exposure levels, some of the chemicals in some sunscreen products may cause cancer in people.
Some Myths related to Breast Cancer
Deodrants and Perfumes cause breast cancer
Caffeine causes breast cancer
Frequent exposure to the microwave in the kitchen causes breast cancer
Mobile phones cause breast cancer
Finding a lump in your breast means you have cancer
Obviously, none of these are true.
Can Breast Cancer be Prevented?
Yes, there are controllable factors that can help you minimize the risk of breast cancer. The risk factors have been discussed above, and the choice is entirely yours. It’s never too late to bring about positive changes to your lifestyle. Limit alcohol. Don’t smoke. Exercise. Get active. Control your weight. Avoid using artificial products as far as possible. Get enough sleep. Consult your doctor before taking oral contraceptives.
A healthy diet and lifestyle may decrease your risk of other types of cancer too, as well as diabetes, heart disease, stroke and much more.
Here are a few websites you could consult if you are looking out for any help or support groups for cancer, or if you wish to make donations or want to sponsor a patient. Do feel free to add on to the list if you feel I have missed out on something.
Images courtesy- http://mindblowingresources.blogspot.in/2012/10/mind-blowing-breast-cancer-awareness.html