Breast cancer is on the rise in developed countries. One of the main factors attributed for this is a changing lifestyle and a dietary pattern followed by the Western Communities. However, the mortality rates from breast cancer are decreasing due to better available techniques to treat the disease. It is felt that diet in general is responsible for one out of every three cases of breast cancer. However, in a community in which diet is a major risk factor for cancer, a small alteration in the diet would effectively help to reduce the incidences of breast cancer by about 10 to 70 %.
Studies conducted in Japanese women, point out that when they migrate to the US, they tend to consume a diet rich in saturated fats, which effectively raises the incidences of breast cancer. In their home nation, the Japanese women consumed an appropriate diet and have a much lower rate of breast cancer, compared to the US women. This suggests that diet was one of the major means by which breast cancer could be prevented (Cancer Research UK, 2006). A survey conducted in a community demonstrated that the incidences of breast cancer were higher than normal.
The community consumed high amounts of fat-rich diet and lower amounts of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables. This could be one of the reasons why the risk of cancer was higher. However, the community had a major problem with a local pulp mill, which emitted toxic substances into the environment. They felt that this was the cause for breast cancer. The problem in general was to convince the community that the dietary factors were responsible for the mortality and morbidity of cancer and not the local pulp mill. Although, carcinogens emitted by mills can also cause cancer, in this case the dietary role was even greater.
More than 100, 000 people are affected with the higher incidence of cancer. The people who are affected include a community who are served by a local hospital. As the population of women would be around 50, 000, more than 8, 000 women would be affected with the disease once in their lifetime. Breast cancer is a condition characterized by a malignant growth in the ducts and/or the tubules of the breast. Although, the condition occurs in both sexes, men are very rarely affected. In the US more than 170, 000 women develop the condition each year and about 40, 000 meet with fatal outcomes (NCI, 2007).
After lung cancer, breast cancer is the second most cause of death. One out of every eight women develops breast cancer. Throughout the world, more than one million cases of breast cancer have been recorded each year. Compared to the developing nations, the developed nations have higher incidences of breast cancer (Muss, 2004). The exact etiology of breast cancer is not known. However, several factors may be responsible for causing breast cancer including age, sex, genetic factors, race, dietary factors, environmental factors, occupational factors, etc (NCI, 2007 & Muss, 2004).
Studies have shown that most women affected with are above the age of 60 years, in almost all the population groups. This may be associated with several factors including younger age of menarche, older age at menopause, bearing children at an older age, abnormalities in the menstrual cycle (may increase chances of genetic mutations and DNA damage of the cells), etc. A number of environmental pollutants such as DDT, biphenyls, etc, may worsen the risk of developing breast cancer. Some women would have suffered from a self-limiting breast disease, which would have increased the risk of developing breast cancer.
Besides, several other lifestyle factors such as sedentary lifestyle, lack of exercises, etc, can lay a major role in the development of the disorder. Individuals belonging to the upper socioeconomic groups are at a greater risk of developing breast cancer. Women who have a higher bone density are also at a higher risk of developing breast cancer (Muss, 2004). Dietary factors play an important role in the development of breast cancer. For example, populations that consume higher amounts of soy proteins are at a lower risk of developing cancers that depends on the hormone-activity (such as breast, prostate or endometrial cancer).
This suggests that some of the dietary factors can play a role in reducing the cancer development. Studies have shown that women who consume higher quantities of alcohol everyday are at a higher risk of developing breast cancer. However, women who consume moderate quantities are not facing such a risk. Some studies have demonstrated that food and diet is the number one risk factor for the development of breast cancer. One important piece of evidence is that people who consume greater quantities of calories derived from animal food are at a higher risk of meeting with fatal outcomes from cancer.
On the other hand, women who consume greater amount of calories derived from plant foods are at a lower risk of meeting with fatal outcomes from cancer. Women who reside in developed nations usually consume a diet rich in animal products (such as animal fats). They may also be consuming higher quantities of alcohol everyday and consuming lesser quantities of natural food substances. This would increase several factors in the body such as IGF-1 and substances similar to estrogen, which effectively raises the risk of developing breast cancer.
Alcohol, on the other hand, potentiates the action of estrogen (Grant, 2002 & Eide, 1998). Another study conducted, demonstrates that exposure to moderate quantities of ultraviolet B and consumption of vitamin D could actually help reduce the incidences of mortality from breast cancer. In the US, it was found that mortality from breast cancer was actually half in the southwest compared to the northeast. If the dietary factors were kept constant, there was an increase in the mortality from breast cancer as the latitude increased (Grant, 2002).
Strong Exercises Obesity Moderate Fruits, vegetables Meat, salty-rich foods, spicy foods, etc Weak Vitamin B complex, fatty acids, Vitamin C, D & E. Animal fat, aromatic hydrocarbons, other pollutants, nitrosamines, etc Scientists are also beginning to find a relationship between increased incidences of breast cancer and obesity. Individuals who consume a diet rich in fruits and vegetables are able to gain a protection against breast cancer. Besides, even moderate amounts of exercises and physical activity helps to reduce the development of breast cancer (WHO, 2007).