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World Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Know the risks of this disease and how to deal with it

This new method can help identify aggressive breast cancer. © Shutterstock

Breast cancer is curable if detected early but lack of awareness has pushed up mortality rates. World Breast Cancer Awareness Month seeks to spread awareness about this condition and garner support to control it.

Written by Jahnavi Sarma |Published : October 1, 2019 9:19 PM IST

October is World Breast Cancer Awareness Month. This is commemorated by countries across the world every year. The idea behind this is to increase awareness and draw attention to the disease. It also aims to garner support for the cause and ensure early detection, treatment and palliative care for breast cancer survivors. According to the World Health Organisation, there are around 1.38 million new cases of breast cancer every year. And there are about 458 000 deaths from the disease each year.

Breast cancer is one of the most common cancer in women across the world. It cuts across class divides and social barriers. But in low- and middle-income countries, the incidences of breast cancer are increasing gradually over the years. WHO says that early detection of the disease is the key to control this disease. This is because if this cancer is diagnosed at the early stages, it has a good prognosis. But, lack of awareness makes early diagnosis an uphill task. This The idea behind breast cancer awareness month is to tackle these problems.

Dim light at night can induce spread of bone metastatic breast cancer: Study

Breast cancer is curable if detected early. It can also be avoided by taking precautions. But for this you need to know the risk factors. According to the National Cancer Institute, more than 150,000 U.S. women had breast cancer in 2017 that metastasised or spread outside the breast. Experts say that when breast cancer spreads, it often goes to the bones, where it can cause severe pain and fragile bones.

A study says that exposure to dim light at night may contribute to spreading of this cancer to bones. When it spreads it often affects bones, cause severe pain and make them fragile. According to researchers at Tulane University in New Orleans, exposure to dim light at night induces circadian disruption, which increases spread of bone metastatic breast cancer. The findings were presented at ENDO 2019, the Endocrine Society's annual meeting in New Orleans.

Disruption of circadian clock can lead to bone-metastatic breast tumour growth: Researchers

For the purpose of the study, researchers injected oestrogen receptor-positive human breast cancer cells, which have a low propensity to grow in bones, into the tibia (shinbone) of female mice. Like humans, mice produced a strong night-time circadian melatonin signal, shown to produce strong anti-cancer actions and for promoting sleep, they said. One group of mice was kept in the light for 12 hours each day. The other group of three mice was kept in the dark for 12 hours. Another group spent 12 hours in light, followed by 12 hours in dim light at night.

Then researchers took X-ray images and saw that mice exposed to a light or dim light cycle had much larger tumours and increased bone damage compared with mice kept in a standard light/dark cycle. They say that this showed the importance of an intact nocturnal circadian melatonin anti-cancer signal in suppressing bone-metastatic breast tumour growth.

Researchers are hopeful that this study will be able to show a way to inhibit or suppress the progression of this cancer metastases to bone.

Breast cancer risk factors

There are many risk factors of breast cancer. The risk goes up with age. In fact, more than 70 per cent of all breast cancers occur in women over the age of 50 years. Breast cancer may also be genetic, and your risk will go up if anybody in your family has suffered from this disease. Other factors are obesity, substance abuse and reproductive and hormonal reasons. Women who get their periods at a young age or who have menopause at a late age are more prone to this disease.

Use of oral contraceptives may also increase your risk of developing this disease. But the risk goes down once you stop using these pills. Another risk factor is hormone replacement therapy (HRT). This is said to significantly increase the risk of developing breast cancer. This is especially true if the treatment uses a combination of oestrogen and progesterone.

Prevention tips

You can bring down your risk of breast cancer by making certain modifications in your diet and leading a healthy life. Try to follow a low-fat diet. Your risk of breast cancer will come down drastically, if you avoid fatty food. But include healthy fats that contain omega-3 fatty acids as this also reduces your risk considerably. Have a lot of fruits and vegetables and avoid smoking and drinking.

Try to maintain a healthy weight. If you are obese or even overweight, try to lose the extra flab. This will bring down your risk. If you are a new mother, breastfeeding can also bring down your risk of this disease. In fact, breastfeeding for more than 1 year, is said to significantly bring down the risk of breast cancer.

You must also exercise regularly because a sedentary lifestyle increases the risk of this disease. Devote 30 minutes 3 to 4 times a week for some kind of exercise. You can also try walking in the park if going to the gym is not feasible for you. Take up yoga or any form of aerobic exercise. Anything will help.

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