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Can poor lifestyle choices lead to cancer risk in women? Experts list common bad habits health news


Cancer is one of the deadliest diseases across the globe, increasing at a rapid pace both in India and globally. Over 14.13 lakh new cancer cases will occur in India in 2022, accounting for 9.16 lakh deaths (according to estimates published by the World Health Organization) and cancer cases among women are higher than among men. Women face a variety of challenges associated with cancer, with the most common cases identified in breast, uterine, ovarian, oral, and colorectal cancers.

The World Health Organization (WHO) highlights that 30-40% of cancer cases are avoidable through lifestyle changes alone. Increased awareness, informed choices, and adoption of healthy habits can enable women to actively reduce their risk of various cancers, promoting longer and healthier lives.

Daily habits lead to cancer risk in women

Ms. Jyostana Govil, Chairperson of Indian Cancer Society, Delhi Branch mentions the harmful activities that can increase the risk of breast or cervical cancer in women:

1. Smoking: Smoked tobacco emits about 7,000 chemicals, which when inhaled cause cell changes, increasing the chance of cancer. The tandem of smoking and excessive alcohol consumption is associated with a higher risk of cancers affecting the aerodigestive tract—lips, mouth, larynx, pharynx, throat, esophagus, and colon.

2. Obesity: Beyond its well-established links to diabetes and heart disease, obesity poses a significant risk for several cancers. Although more specific studies are needed, there is no denying that obesity is increasing due to sedentary lifestyles. Fat tissue normally produces high levels of estrogen, which is associated with breast, ovarian, endometrial in women, and other types of cancer across the population (including women).

3. Neglecting regular screening and check-ups: Another major cause of cancer in India is the lack of regular screening and check-ups in the country. A sense of ennui surrounds routine screening, followed by stigma in some parts of the country, resulting in routine screening being neglected and even early signs and symptoms being ignored. This is notably evident in cervical cancer, a prevalent problem among Indian women.

4. Less physical activity: Lack of physical activity, especially among the youth, is also increasing the number of cancers today. Less physical activity is associated with increased risk of breast cancer in women, especially those in menopause. Extended working hours, unhealthy eating habits at work, long screen time watching TV and videos and the latest craze of spending hours on reels, prevent people from exercising and walking.

This sedentary pattern contributes to health problems like PCOD/PCOS, especially affecting younger women. Sedentary behavior also increases lung, endometrial and colon cancers.

How to reduce the risk of cancer: preventive tips

Dr. Surender Kumar Dabas, Vice Chairman and HOD, Oncology, BLK-Max Super Specialty Hospital shares healthy lifestyle choices to reduce the risk of cancer:

  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • healthy eating
  • Exercise regularly
  • Say no to tobacco and limit alcohol consumption
  • Protect against sexually transmitted infections
  • Manage stress and be aware of environmental factors
  • get vaccinated
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