(Bihar Times) Every three minutes a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer. In India one in 22 women will get breast cancer in her lifetime. Breast cancer is not limited to women alone – one in 200 men gets it as well. It is the second leading cause of cancer deaths among women worldwide, 45% of those women live in developing countries. In India 75,000 new cases occur every year. By 2015, WHO says, India will have upto 2.5 lakh new cases of breast cancer and it will be on par with the west in its incidence - one in seven women. In the last 40 years, breast cancer has gone up by 40% across Indian metros and a yearly 3- 8 % rise in breast cancer cases in India has been predicted.
Ask any doctor what women can do to prevent breast cancer, and the response will be to get an annual mammogram. Mammograms do not prevent cancer. They find cancer. Biopsy, surgery, or chemotherapy follows.
What causes cancer ? According to the National Cancer Institute, 80 % of large bowel, breast and prostate cancers are preventable and related to diet.
Cancer develops when a cell of the body becomes abnormal, multiplies out of control to produce millions of cells which turn into lumps that invade healthy tissues of the body. The breast is made up of glands and fat. The glands of the breast are made up of cells. They grow and recede, controlled by hormones. Abnormal cells grow into swellings called Breast Cancer.
The link between fat and cancer is now undeniable. Many breast tumors are "fueled" by estrogens, the female sex hormones for women and men. The more estrogen there is, the greater the driving force behind breast cancer. The principal estrogen is estradiol, and the amount of estradiol produced by the body is linked to the amount of fat and fibre in the diet. High-fat diets increase estradiol production and low-fat diets decrease it. Consumption of high-fat foods such as meat, dairy and fried foods cause a woman’s body to make more estrogen, which encourages cancer cell growth in the breast and other organs that are sensitive to female sex hormones. Estradiol is carried in the blood on special carrier molecules. On high-fat diets, estradiol breaks free from its carrier molecules and becomes biologically active, like soldiers jumping off a jeep and starting their attack.
Meat, poultry, fish, and dairy products that make up a high fat diet have no fibre. Fibre reduces estrogen levels in the body by trapping it in the digestive tract and moving it out of the body. Without fibre, the estrogen is reabsorbed from the intestine into the bloodstream increasing cancer risk.
One study noted a 200 % increase in breast cancer among those who consume beef or pork five to six times per week. When the amount of fat in the diet is reduced and vegetables, fruit and grain are increased , the estrogen levels are held at a lower and safer level. A 2003 study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found that when girls ages eight to ten reduced the amount of animal fat in their diet and added vegetables, fruit and grains , the amount of estradiol in their blood dropped by 30 percent. Similarly, a group of women switched from a high-fat, low-fibre diet (40% of calories as fat and 12 g/day of fibre) to a low-fat, high-fibre diet (20% of calories from fat and 40 g/day of fibre). Within two months their estrogen level had dropped by 46%.
With every bite of meat, we increase our risk of cancer. The risk of contracting breast cancer is 3.8 times greater for women who eat meat daily compared to less than once a week; 2.8 times greater for women who eat eggs daily compared to once a week; and 3.25 greater for women who eat butter and cheese 2 to 4 times a week as compared to once a week. A 2007 study of more than 35,000 women published in the British Journal of Cancer found that women who ate the most meat were more likely to develop breast cancer than women who consumed the lowest amount .In another study, of 24,367 postmenopausal Danish women it was reported that the more meat a woman eats, the greater her risk of breast cancer. Every 25 gram increase in consumption of meat led to a 9, 15, and 23 percent increase in the risk. Harvard researchers conducted an analysis of 90,645 pre menopausal women, enrolled in the Nurses’ Health Study II and determined that intake of animal fats is associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. The study showed that women who consumed one and a half or more servings of meat per day had nearly double the risk of developing hormone receptor-positive breast cancer compared with women consuming three or fewer servings of meat per week.
A study of 10,149 cases in northern Italy between 1983 and 1996 also found significant associations of breast cancer with meat consumption. In a May 2007 study by Steck and Gaudet, it was reported that breast cancer risk increased to 74% for women who consumed meat and ate fewer than five servings a day of fruits and vegetables. Eating as little as 2 oz of beef, pork or lamb every day can increase the risk of contracting the disease by 56 % in older women, the study warns. Eating processed meats, such as sausages, bacon and ham, pushed the risk to 64 %.
If you think switching from red meat to grilled chicken to reduce the fat content think again. Scientific evidence suggests that, when it comes to cancer risk, grilled chicken could be among the worst choices. Chicken produces much higher levels of carcinogens than beef, has the same amount of cholesterol and is as high in fat. Even when the skin is removed and a non-fat cooking method is used, chicken is 23 % fat – and so is salmon. Physicians’ Committee for Responsible Medicine tested grilled chicken products from fast-food chains McDonald’s and Burger King. The results were positive for a carcinogenic compound (PhIP).Based on these test results, PCRM filed a lawsuit against McDonald’s, Burger King, Chick-fil-A, Chili’s, Applebee’s, Outback Steakhouse and TGI Friday’s. I was in Los Angeles last week. Every fast food restaurant carries a government notice informing customers that what they are about to eat increases their risk of cancer. According to the Department of Pathology, Goa Medical College, eating broiler chickens regularly leads to a hormonal imbalance in the body, which increases the risk of breast cancer. Researchers in Buffalo, New York, calculated the degree of risk posed by fat in the diet: for a woman with metastatic breast cancer (cancer which has already spread at the time of diagnosis), her risk of dying from the disease at any point in time increases 40 percent for every 1,000 grams of fat consumed monthly.
Early puberty has also been associated with the increased risk of breast cancer. According to the World Health Organization, the average age of puberty in girls in western countries in 1840 was 17 years of age. Today girls reach puberty at 10- 12 and cancer has been detected in women from ages 21-30. In China where low-fat diets centred on rice and vegetables with little meat and no dairy are still the rule, the age of puberty ranges between 15 and 19. The effect is not just a higher age of puberty, but also low rates of heart disease, obesity, and cancer.
Two themes consistently emerge from studies of cancer: vegetables and fruits help to reduce risk, while meat, animal products, increase risk. According to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine,: "Vegetarians are about 40 percent less likely to get cancer than non vegetarians." The role of diet takes special importance in countries like India. Once our diet consisted mainly of vegan food but now we are moving towards a diet rich in animal proteins. Instead of struggling to cure cancer why not prevent it.
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