October is breast cancer awareness month
Breast cancer is the most popular form of cancer among women in Sri Lanka. October is world breast cancer awareness month and early recognition is the best method for effective treatment.
However the news is not all bad. Prostate cancer mortality is over 137 times lower in Sri Lanka than it is in the US. Leukemia mortality is over 5 times lower. Colon cancer mortality in Sri Lanka is a stunning 187 times lower than in the US. Interestingly nutrition plays a major role in preventing cancer.
There are at least 4 important breast cancer risk factors that are affected by nutrition and these are
(a) Early age of menarche (first menstrual bleeding of the human female which occurs during puberty). Diet high in animal food and refined carbohydrates lowers the age of menarche.
(b) Late age of menopause (i.e. time during which a woman gradually stops menstruation, usually at around 50 years.) A diet high in animal foods and refined carbohydrates is known to raise the age of menopause.
(c) High levels of female hormones (e.g. oestrogens, progesterone etc) in the blood. A diet high in animal products and refined carbohydrates raises female hormones.
(d) High blood cholesterol. A diet high in animal products especially diet containing red meat and dairy products and food items containing high cholesterol raises your blood cholesterol level.
There is overwhelming evidence that oestrogens and other female hormone levels are a critical determinant of breast cancer risk (Brestein L and Rose R.K., Epidemiol. Revs 15 (1993) 48-65) and oestrogen directly participates in the cancer process and increased levels of oestrogens and other related hormones are a result of the consumption of typical Western diets high in fat and animal protein and low in dietary fibre.
Genes do play a role in the development of breast cancer and certain other cancers. Even if there is a family history of breast cancer, the risk of getting breast cancer can be minimized by taking a proper diet.
Among genes that influence breast cancer risk, BRCA - 1 and BRCA - 2 have received most attention since their discovery in 1994. These genes when mutated confer a higher risk both for breast cancer and ovarian cancer.
These genes are not the only genes than participate in the development of breast cancer. It is noteworthy that the mere presence of BRCA - 1 and BRCA - 2 or any other breast cancer gene does not guarantee disease occurrence. Environmental and dietary factors play a central role in determining whether these genes are expressed.
Mammography definitely helps early detection of breast cancer and cancer treatment is more successful if cancer is detected at an earlier stage and survival for 5 years is higher if the cancer is detected early.