Stressful and erratic lifestyle, mothers not nursing babies adequately, smoking and pollution are the key factors of putting women at higher risk of developing breast cancer. Health experts warned the situation has already reached an "alarming" level in India.
Over a lakh new incidences of breast cancer are occurring in India annually, and doctors say, with "changing lifestyle" and "work regimen", the cases will continue to rise.
"Women in big cities, both housewives and working, are more susceptible to getting breast cancer. Routine smoking and alcohol consumption, pollution, anxiety and erratic lifestyle already make them prone to the disease.
"But, late marriage, junk and packaged food consumption, and mothers not breastfeeding babies enough are also among the factors contributing to them getting afflicted by this cancer," Senior Consultant in Medical Oncology at the Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, Dr Shyam Aggarwal told.
The entire October month is observed as breast cancer awareness month, and hospitals, health institutions and NGOs around the world, hold various programmes to raise awareness about the disease.
Breast cancer is the top cancer in women both in the developed and the developing world. Its incidence is rising in the developing world due to increased life expectancy, growing urbanisation and adoption of western lifestyles, according to World Health Organisation.
Dr Deepa Tayal, Empanelled Consultant (Breast & General Surgery) at Fortis La Femme says, "Up until few years ago it was uterine cancer, but now it's definitely breast cancer on the top."
"Anxiety due to stress at home or workplace, irregular eating and sleeping habits, routine smoking and alcohol consumption, and pollution are contributing to women developing breast cancer.
"Some of these conditions also trigger obesity, and therefore obesity is one of the factors that one can say make women prone to breast cancer indirectly, but there is no direct link established yet," she said.
Though women aged 30-35 and above are generally more susceptible to it, doctors say, cases of women as young as 20-25 and as old as 75-80 are also being diagnosed with it.
"Breast cancer in young are more aggressive compared to those in elderly where it is more indolent and lingers on.
Also, now the mammography is showing lumps as small as less than 1 cm. Previously, when high-tech apparatus was not there, lumps found were sized 5 cm or so," Aggarwal said.
Dr Ramesh Sarin, Consultant Oncologist at Apollo Hospital in Delhi says, "The situation in India is absolutely alarming. Late marriage, one child, no marriage, sedentary lifestyle, or working next to computer for long time, are making matters worse. In rural areas, though cervical cancer is still more prevalent than breast cancer," she said.