The surge of the urban middle class is fast proving to be the scourge for women as the incidence of breast cancer is rising by leaps and bounds in the country.
The modernity-driven lifestyle changes, which has transformed all spheres from behavioural and living to dietary habits, has begun taking its toll on the women.
As per latest data, the incidence of breast cancer in the country 20 years back was between 18 and 20 per lakh. This has now increased to 27-32 in a lakh and rising. It is the fallout of urbanisation which has brought sudden changes to the lives of women. One of the most significant changes among urban women is that the age of onset of puberty has come down drastically while that of menopause has grown longer. “Girls in towns and cities are now attaining puberty as early as 10 while menopause is being delayed to 60 years. Twenty-five years back girls were attaining puberty at 14 to 16 years while menopause came at around 45. The widening gap between puberty and menopause has led to increased exposure to estrogen, the hormone responsible for development of female sexual organs, by at least two decades, which is turning a risk factor for women. Sedentary lifestyle, career-driven stressful life, late marriage and motherhood and early weaning of babies are also causative factors,” said Prof MK Mahajan, founder secretary- general of Breast Cancer Foundation of India.
Prof. Mahajan, who is here to take part in the Breast Cancer Month observations at the Panda Curie Cancer Hospital and Acharya Harihar Regional Cancer Centre, said rural women continue to be safer than their urban counterparts. Breast cancer incidence among them, which was around 14 to 18 in a lakh about two decades back has marginally increased to 20.
“The mantra is monitoring by self- examination from fairly young age as breast cancer is afflicting women in the 20s too. Women with a family history of breast cancer, particularly on the maternal side, should be specifically wary and undergo routine check-ups,” Prof Mahajan said.