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Breast cancer can't be predicted, but breastfeeding may help reduce the risk

Author Dr. Preeti Gangan Published in The Economic Times India

The rise of breast cancer over the past few years in India has been no secret. Doctors from different parts of the country have reported a minimum of 25-30 patients per week coming into hospitals with breast cancer. They say the lack of early detection and treatment is leading to thousands of deaths in the country and this number is expected to increase in the coming years.

A study published in August this year, looking at breast cancer awareness in the country, found that more than 70,000 Indian women died of breast cancer in 2012 and predicted that the number of deaths was likely to increase to 76,000 by 2020. The study also says that younger women are more likely to develop breast cancer with the average age of incidence shifting from 50 years to 30 years.

The Indian Council of Medical Research finds that India is likely to have more than 17.3 lakh new cases of cancer and over 8.8 lakh deaths due to the disease by 2020. Breast cancer is the most common of the types of cancers occurring in India followed by lung and cervical cancer

Breast cancer is something one cannot predict but it doesn't mean it can't be avoided. While awareness stands relevant to inform the masses, a preventive measure that has been discovered and confirmed by researchers is breastfeeding.

Over the years, there has been a decrease in mothers breastfeeding their babies. Skipping this lactation phase has proven to be problematic, not only for the child but also for the mother as it puts women at a higher risk of breast cancer, diabetes and many other serious health conditions.

A number of factors point towards breastfeeding lowering the risk of breast cancer. Women who breastfeed have fewer menstrual cycles throughout their lives, and therefore less exposure to estrogen, which has been shown to fuel some types of breast cancers. Breastfeeding also makes breast cells more resistant to mutations that can cause cancer.

But what we tend to overlook is that there are lifestyle factors too that often come into play: for example, pregnant or breastfeeding women tend ..

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