Indian Journal of Cancer
Home  ICS  Feedback Subscribe Top cited articles Login 
Users Online :6878
Small font sizeDefault font sizeIncrease font size
Navigate here
Resource links
   Similar in PUBMED
   Search Pubmed for
   Search in Google Scholar for
   Article in PDF (196 KB)
   Citation Manager
   Access Statistics
   Reader Comments
   Email Alert *
   Add to My List *
* Registration required (free)  

  In this article

 Article Access Statistics
    PDF Downloaded444    
    Comments [Add]    

Recommend this journal


  Table of Contents  
Year : 2011  |  Volume : 48  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 296-297

Breast cancer and lifestyle

Department of Medical Oncology, Majumdar Shaw Cancer Institute, Bangalore, India

Date of Web Publication14-Sep-2011

Correspondence Address:
R Bharath
Department of Medical Oncology, Majumdar Shaw Cancer Institute, Bangalore
Login to access the Email id

Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0019-509X.84919

Rights and Permissions

How to cite this article:
Bharath R, Narayanan P. Breast cancer and lifestyle. Indian J Cancer 2011;48:296-7

How to cite this URL:
Bharath R, Narayanan P. Breast cancer and lifestyle. Indian J Cancer [serial online] 2011 [cited 2021 Dec 4];48:296-7. Available from: https://www.indianjcancer.com/text.asp?2011/48/3/296/84919

Any attempt at understanding the causal link between cancer and lifestyle factors is fraught with many pitfalls. This becomes more confusing in retrospective studies when the factors have taken place a time point remote from the time of interview. The retrospective paired case control analysis published in this edition by Lodha et al. in identifying breast cancer risk factors needs to be appreciated, especially because of the great challenges faced in India in effective and regular follow-up after cancer diagnosis/therapy.

The hormone-sensitive nature of breast cancer has triggered the logical exploration of endocrine influences, in general, and estrogen exposure, in particular, in the development of breast cancer, including age of menarche/menopause, parity, duration of breast feeding, exogenous hormone therapy/estrogen treatment, etc. The use of exogenous estrogens in OCP has shown inconsistent association with risk of breast cancer development. The challenges in risk factor assessment done at a time point remote from the development of cancer are reflected in the author's discussion where the history of OCP use is unreliable.

Shapiro et al[1] conducted one of the earliest large prospective epidemiological studies on breast cancer risk factors, enrolling more than 60,000 women on follow-up, which did not report an association between breast cancer risk and duration of breast feeding. The authors note that there existed a trend away from breast feeding in the US during the study period, which might have influenced the result. However, the same study also indicates the lower incidence of breast cancer with higher parity (≥3). At around the same time, Yuasa and MacMohan [2] published their case control study of Japanese women where the incidence of breast cancer was low. This study too did not reveal any protective effect of even prolonged lactation among Japanese women. However, other studies showed a trend toward decreased risk of breast cancer with increasing duration of breast feeding, especially in countries with high prevalence. [3],[4],[5],[6],[7] These studies were conducted prior to the era of widespread use of exogenous hormones, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) oral contraceptive pills (OCP).

Many of the subsequent investigators have since assessed the risk of exogenous hormone treatments including OCPs. One of the largest collaborative re-analysis consisting of data from more than 150,000 women interestingly demonstrated only an increase in risk of breast cancer during the actual use of OCP, with a relative risk of 1.24. [8] This increased risk declined after discontinuation of OCP and was not evident at 10 years. [7],[8] Many smaller studies including the Nurses Health study, US. [9] did not find increased risk of breast cancer in former OCP users. Various smaller studies have shown inconsistent results.

The authors of the current study published in this edition have rightly pointed out the inconsistencies in recollection of OCP use duration among the participants. A bias with more women with breast cancer giving history of OCP use/recollecting longer usage is possible, but difficult to eliminate in a retrospective study. Furthermore, the bivariate analysis used by authors may not have the statistical strength to make the associations valid in this relatively small study. Many small studies have also demonstrated a lower risk of breast cancer with higher degree of parity, which is surprising in developing nations where higher parity is generally associated with longer cumulative duration of breast feeding. These inconsistencies and recall bias will remain a confounding factor in all retrospective studies. Among more recent studies evaluating the epidemiological risk factors, the California Teachers Cohort is noteworthy. [10] This analysis which included 52,464 women did not report decreased risk of breast cancer with higher duration of breast feeding. However, the authors have reported a decrease in breast cancer incidence in women with higher order of parity and a significant decrease in breast cancer in women who have experienced pregnancy at an earlier age. [10] Hadjisavvas et al reported results from a case control study of more than 2000 Cypriot women which showed a protective effect of breast feeding in the development of breast cancer. [11] They noted that a family history was one of the strongest risk factors associated with the development of breast cancer. The Barbados National Cancer Study which included 281 breast cancer patients and 481 matched controls also reported higher incidence of breast cancer in women with family history and the protective effect of earlier pregnancy and higher number of full-term pregnancies. [12] The results reported by Tehranian et al in Iranian women are consistent with the results from the current study. [13] There is, however, a surprisingly discordant report from Pakistan by Fatima et al of the increased risk of breast cancer with multiparity and longer duration of breast feeding. [14]

Anovulation during pregnancy and consequent decrease in endogenous estrogen exposure has long been thought to be protective for the development of invasive breast cancer. This has been demonstrated in many studies. However, the effect of prolonged breast feeding has been inconsistent and large cohort studies do not report a protective effect. Lower age at first pregnancy has consistently shown a decrease in the incidence of breast cancer in postmenopausal women. Although the use of exogenous estrogens and OCP has been hypothesized to increase the incidence of breast cancer, these fears have not been conclusively proven in large studies. The incidence of breast cancer does seem to be mildly increased during the use of OCP, but this effect is not evident on long-term follow-up of women who have discontinued OCP. Issues like timing of pregnancies, number of pregnancies and, to a lesser extent, use of OCP depend on various social, cultural, economic, religious, personal choices and other factors and may provide us with an insight into the endocrine milieu which may increase the predilection to develop breast cancer. While strategies to offset these endocrine influences may be attempted, an actual modification of these behavior and lifestyle issues in the community may not be always feasible. The use of exogenous estrogens and hormones on the other hand needs to be evaluated in a well-conducted prospective fashion and safe alternatives need to be identified. The need of the hour is to study large cohorts and follow them over time to identify the risk factors in a prospective fashion. The development of hormone therapy with selective estrogen receptor modulators, antiestrogens and aromatase inhibitors [15],[16] in a community to prevent the development of invasive breast cancers mandates the need for identifying the endocrine risk factors accurately.

  References Top

1.Shapiro S. Strax P, Venet L, Fink R. The search for risk factors in breast cancer. Am J Public Health Nations Health 1968;58:820-35.  Back to cited text no. 1
2.Yuasa S, MacMahon B Lactation and reproductive histories of breast cancer patients in Tokyo, Japan. Bull World Health Organ 1970;42:195-204.  Back to cited text no. 2
3.Zippin C. The epidemiology of breast cancer. Oncology 1969;23:93-8.  Back to cited text no. 3
4.Dunn JE Jr. Epidemiology and possible identification of high-risk groups that could develop cancer of the breast. Cancer 1969;23:775-80.  Back to cited text no. 4
5.Wynder EL. Identification of women at high risk for breast cancer. Cancer 1969;24:1235-40.  Back to cited text no. 5
6.Zippin C, Petrakis NL. Identification of high risk groups in breast cancer. Cancer 1971;28:1381-7.  Back to cited text no. 6
7.McPherson K, Steel CM, Dixon JM. ABC of breast diseases. Breast cancer-epidemiology, risk factors, and genetics. BMJ 2000;321:624-8.  Back to cited text no. 7
8.Collaborative Group on Hormonal Factors in Breast Cancer, ICRF Cancer Epidemiology Unit, Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford, UK. Breast cancer and hormonal contraceptives: collaborative reanalysis of individual data on53 297 women with breast cancer and 100 239 women without breast cancer from 54epidemiological studies. Collaborative Group on Hormonal Factors in Breast Cancer. Lancet 1996;347:1713-27.  Back to cited text no. 8
9.Hankinson SE, Colditz GA, Manson JE, Willett WC, Hunter DJ, Stampfer MJ, et al. A prospective study of oral contraceptive use and risk of breast cancer (Nurses' Health Study, United States). Cancer Causes Control 1997;8:65-72.  Back to cited text no. 9
10.Ma H, Henderson KD, Sullivan-Halley J, Duan L, Marshall SF, Ursin G, et al. Pregnancy-related factors and the risk of breast carcinoma in situ and invasive breast cancer among postmenopausal women in the California Teachers Study cohort. Breast Cancer Res 2010;12(3):R35.   Back to cited text no. 10
11.Hadjisavvas A, Loizidou MA, Middleton N, Michael T, Papachristoforou R, Kakouri E, et al. An investigation of breast cancer risk factors in Cyprus: A case control study. BMC Cancer 2010;10:447.  Back to cited text no. 11
12.Nemesure B, Wu SY, Hambleton IR, Leske MC, Hennis AJ; Barbados National Cancer Study Group. Risk factors for breast cancer in a black population--the Barbados National Cancer Study. Int J Cancer 2009;124:174-9.  Back to cited text no. 12
13.Akbari A, Razzaghi Z, Homaee F, Khayamzadeh M, Movahedi M, Akbari ME. Parity and breastfeeding are preventive measures against breast cancer in Iranian women. Breast Cancer 2011;18:51-5.  Back to cited text no. 13
14.Fatima N, Zaman MU, Fatima T. Increased risk of breast cancer in multiparous and lactating women attending a breast care clinic in Pakistan: a paradigm shift? Asian Pac J Cancer Prev 2010;11:1219-23.  Back to cited text no. 14
15.Fabian CJ, Kimler BF. Chemoprevention for high-risk women: Tamoxifen and beyond. Breast J 2001;7:311-20.  Back to cited text no. 15
16.Goss PE, Ingle JN, Alés-Martínez JE, Cheung AM, Chlebowski RT, Wactawski-Wende J, et al. Exemestane for breast-cancer prevention in postmenopausal women. N Engl J Med 2011;364:2381-91.  Back to cited text no. 16


Print this article  Email this article


  Site Map | What's new | Copyright and Disclaimer
  Online since 1st April '07
  2007 - Indian Journal of Cancer | Published by Wolters Kluwer - Medknow