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By Laura Dowrich-Phillips- Caribbean women over 40 are more at risk for developing breast cancer.
According to a 2016 study entitled Breast Cancer in Caribbean Women by Dr Judith Hurley, Professor of Medicine at the University of Miami, older women are more at risk.
In Barbados, the average age for women developing breast cancer is 46.6, Cayman Islands, 51.4, Dominica, 52, Haiti, 50, Jamaica, 49, Trinidad and Tobago, 43, [and 51.1].
Dr Anesa Ahamad, an Oncologist based in the United States and who works with the Cancer Clinic of Trinidad and Tobago, told Loop News the findings of the study are still valid today.
She said while breast cancer is more common worldwide in white women with the peak age for breast cancer for that demographic in Europe in the 60s, there is a higher incidence for younger Africans and East Indians in the Caribbean.
She said the younger the age, the more aggressive cancer tends to behave.
“With women in their 40s, we are dealing with a generally more aggressive cancer that needs more aggressive treatment,” she said.
Dr Ahamad said there is evidence that the number of breast cancer cases is increasing.
“Some of the risk factors for breast cancer we are aware of may be more common in women living a lifestyle where there is alcohol intake, drinking more than two drinks a day of any type, a high-fat diet, being overweight,” she said.
Other risk factors include lack of physical activity, lack of breastfeeding, the number of pregnancies a woman has as women who never got pregnant have a higher incidence of breast cancer.
Dr Ahamad noted, however, that if someone gets breast cancer that no one can prove it is because of something they have done.
“Women without risk factors also get breast cancer, however, we are aware there are risk factors associated with the increase and these are cultural.”
Dr Ahamad said there is a tremendous social and financial impact to society with women over 40 developing breast cancer.
“It is a time in their life when they are mothers, they are working, looking after parents and families, they are income earners, they may be the core fabric of their town, village, families, households and they are women who get breast cancer so the effect on the families and communities is more impactful than women in their 60s. It is socially and financially impactful. We are losing schoolteachers, bankers, losing them from the workforce and home,” she explained.
Asked about guidelines for preventing breast cancer, Dr Ahamad said it is the same lifestyle and diet recommended for lowering the risk of other diseases: maintain a healthy weight, be physically active, low alcohol intake, no smoking, and consuming a diet low in salt, sugar, processed foods, preserved meats, and red meat.
She also recommended screening tests done at appropriate times following discussions with your doctor. (Loop News)