Breast cancer is the most common cancer in most cities in India, and 2nd most common in the rural areas. Any woman – young or old can get breast cancer irrespective of family history.  According to oncologists, unfortunately, cases of breast cancer are increasing in younger women, particularly in their thirties and forties. What’s really bothersome is that most women with breast cancer get to know about it when the disease has already progressed. Younger women have more tissue than fat in their breasts – it makes cancer harder to detect on a mammogram.  

Early detection affects the long-term survival of the patient.

Like Latika, 43 (name changed) a Bangalore resident whose vigilance helped her to beat breast cancer. Though a mother of two kids whom she had breastfed she didn’t ignore her cancer screening. In one of those screenings, a malignant lump of about 1. 4 cm showed up. She got the full advantage of minimal non-mutilating surgery and her treatment was tailored according to her requirement.  Latika didn’t even go for chemotherapy. She had a radiation and hormonal therapy. Recently she has successfully reached the five-year cancer-free milestone. She has brought major changes in her lifestyle and emerged as a firm believer in the efficacy of holistic living. 

Build Awareness of Breast Cancer 

Certainly, the first step to preventing breast cancer is awareness. As a woman, you should look out for changes in the texture or shape of your breasts.

  • Painless lumps
  • Thickening of the tissue
  • Pain
  • Discharge from the nipple
  • Unusual appearance or sensation
  • ‘Tethering’ of the skin, as if being pulled from the inside

Any change in the breasts felt by the lady should be brought to specialists’ notice. If you have a family history of breast cancer you need to even more vigilant in self-examination and taking preventive steps.

The steps to prevent the risk of breast cancer are related to your diet and lifestyle and studies have proved that they have helped reduce the risk of breast cancer even in high-risk women.

Preventing Breast Cancer: A Holistic Guide

    1.  Limit alcohol

Research shows that drinking alcoholic beverages – beer, wine, and liquor can increase levels of estrogen and other hormones. These hormones increase the risk of hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer.

If you quit drinking, you reduce your risk of getting breast cancer by 15 percent as compared to women who have three alcoholic drinks per week.

  1. Quit smoking

Smoking increases the risk of 15 types of cancer including breast cancer. A major study found out that smoking increases the risk of developing breast cancer by 30 percent. The researchers also found that if you have picked up smoking in pre-teens before you started menstruating or you have breast cancer running in your family, you are at high risk of developing breast cancer.

Sadly, the risk continued for at least two decades after giving up smoking, although it would taper down after a while. Heavy second-hand smoke exposure is also linked to increased breast cancer risk in postmenopausal women.

  1. Obesity

The link between weight and obesity is complicated. Overweight women- particularly apple shaped ones -are at an increased risk of getting breast cancer because they have a higher level of estrogen circulating in their system. Studies show that the risk factor increases in women who have put on weight in their adult years, whereas women who were overweight as girls are at a lower risk.

Many studies have found that exercise is a breast-healthy habit. Aim to brisk walk for 75 to 150 minutes daily to lower the risk.

  1. Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding for longer than a year reduces the risk of breast cancer, as long as the woman does not smoke.  Most women have fewer menstrual cycles when they are breastfeeding which means lower estrogen levels. Studies have shown that increased estrogen level increases the risk of breast cancer.

  1. Synthetic hormones and breast cancer

Many post-menopausal women take synthetic hormones to ease postmenopausal symptoms like hot flashes and bone loss. These synthetic hormones can be a combination of estrogen and progesterone or only estrogen. The risk of HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) and breast cancer got established in 2002. The combination hormones (progesterone and estrogen) increase the risk of breast cancer by 75 percent even when it is used for a short duration.

Unfortunately, combination hormone therapy increases the likelihood that cancer will get detected at an advanced stage and also increases the risk of mortality in women.  Estrogen-only HRT increases the risk of breast cancer when it is used for more than 10 years. Estrogen-only HRT puts you at greater risk of ovarian cancer.

A study has also linked the use of oral contraceptives with breast cancer. An analysis of data from more than 150,000 women who participated in 54 epidemiologic studies showed that, overall, women who had ever used oral contraceptives had a slight (7%) increase in the relative risk of breast cancer compared with women who had never used oral contraceptives.

  1. Avoid exposure to radiation and environmental pollution

Medical-imaging methods, such as computerized tomography, use high doses of radiation.  That means you should go for these tests only when they are absolutely necessary.

  1. Avoid carcinogens in cosmetics and creams

While buying cosmetics, creams, shampoos  and body lotions make sure to read labels and avoid products that contain butylated hydroxyanisole, Diethanolamine (DEA), Phthalates, parabens, sodium lauryl sulfate, formaldehyde and formaldehyde-releasing preservatives, coal tar, benzene, mineral oils, ethylene oxide, arsenic, chromium, cadmium and its compound and products with synthetic colors.  A long-term exposure to these substances can increase the risk of developing cancer. Therefore, try to use as much harmful chemical-free and natural products as possible.

  1. Microwaving food in a plastic container

Substances like bisphenol-A (BPA) and phthalates are added to make plastic either hard or soft. These substances are called endocrine disrupters because they create an imbalance in the working of human hormones. These endocrine disrupters mimic estrogen and increase the risk of both breast and uterine cancer. Therefore, it is better to minimize the use plastic, especially in the microwave.

  1. Use of underwire bras and risk of breast cancer

Though no study has conclusively established the link between the use of underwire bra and breast cancer. It would be better not to overuse underwire bras. Some experts believe that wearing such a bra can cut off lymph drainage, that can contribute to the development of breast cancer.

  1. Eat healthy and manage stress 

And, finally, eat healthy to moderate your risk factor for breast health. Harvard researchers recently found that women who had the highest carotenoid levels in their blood have a lower risk of breast cancer. Include a wide variety of fruits vegetables, whole grains, nuts, omega 3 fatty acids in your diet. 

Stressful events can alter the levels of hormones in the body and affect the immune system. Though no study has directly implicated stress as the cause of cancer. But stress can create a favorable environment for cancer to flourish in the body. Therefore take measures to de-stress yourself. Yoga and meditation can go a long way in reducing stress levels.

Use this holistic guide to preventing breast cancer and do send us your feedback and share survival stories at