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Home News and Update Year 2010 Obesity and Breast Cancer in Indian Population

Obesity and Breast Cancer in Indian Population

Times of India
27 March 2010

Studies show that being overweight puts you at an increased risk for breast cancer
Dr Anusheel Munshi Consultant Radiation Oncologist Tata Memorial Hospital
Obesity and Breast Cancer in Indian Population
Cancer is a non-communicable disease with increasing incidence in developing countries. While many cancers occur without any known risk factors, researchers have been able to determine a few risk factors associated with malignancy over the years.

Obesity is a well known health problem in developed nations and is a progressively increasing problem in developing countries like India. Obesity has been associated with several health disorders such as high blood pressure and cardiovascular diseases, lipid abnormalities and Type-2 diabetes.

Among all cancers, the ones especially related to obesity are cancers of the breast, prostate, uterus and colon. An increased amount of fat in an overweight or obese person probably influences the development of cancer by releasing several hormone-like factors. The majority of these factors promote inflammation, which in turn promotes pathological conditions like insulin resistance and cancer. On the other hand, fruits and vegetables contain various dietary substances such as vitamins, minerals (like calcium and selenium), fibre and phytochemicals or phenolic compounds (like flavonoids and vanilloids), which may act as anticancer agents. Similarly, several dietary constituents including phytochemicals may have anti-obesity effects. (Murthy NS , Asian Pac J Cancer Prev. 2005)

Moderate association of cancer with obesity has been documented consistently. This has especially been shown both for colon cancer and for breast cancer in postmenopausal women.

(World Cancer Research Fund Report 1996). The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) too has concluded that there is sufficient evidence of a preventive effect for cancers of the colon, breast (in postmenopausal women), uterus, and esophagus by avoidance of weight gain.

There is minimal data among the Indian population regarding Body Mass Index (BMI) or Obesity trends and their correlation with breast cancer. In a small unpublished study at the Tata Memorial Hospital, serial assessment of weight in patients of breast cancer treated with radiotherapy was done on a weekly basis. Seventy four patients of carcinoma breast were prospectively analysed. The average pre-radiotherapy baseline weight of breast cancer patients was 59.8 Kg. There was no appreciable weight alteration during radiotherapy. It is notable that unlike the West, breast cancer patients in India tend to occur in younger patients. Also, it is a well known fact that younger patients of breast cancer tend to have more aggressive disease. Lesions in patients younger than 40 years generally are also less well visualised in mammography. The strategy of effective primary prevention is difficult to implement in Indian population. However, public awareness, healthier life style, diet, exercise, promoting breast feeding and general breast awareness using appropriate technology may help in reducing the incidence and occurrence of breast cancer in our population. To summarise, it would be a desirable to goal to disseminate awareness about obesity and its correlation and impact on breast cancer. This is especially so since lifestyles in our country are undergoing rapid transformation.

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