Know About the Most Common Cancer in Women

icon-blog By -Dr. Kanika Sharma
icon-blog By -December 15, 2023
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Know About the Most Common Cancer in Women

At present, India is grappling with a deadly disease worse than the COVID-19. This disease is called cancer. WHO estimates that about one in ten Indians gets infected with cancer and one in 15 dies of cancer. If this news isn’t bad enough, brace yourselves for more. The Indian Council of Medical Research’s researches show that cancer incidence in India is expected to increase more than 7-folds compared with the cancer incidence in 1982! Pollution is one of the major reasons for this sudden increase in cancer cases. Others include the increased number of chain smokers; the fact that we have become more sedentary and our lifestyles are less healthy.

Women also have little time these days to care for their good health because of the numerous difficulties. Nowadays, it is essential to allocate some time to regular screening and a few simple lifestyle adjustments, which can save woman’s lives even from such disease as cancer. The most prevalent forms of cancer among Indian woman include breast and cervical cancer with data by Cancer India showing that the above-mentioned types of cancers contributed to more than 40% of new female cancer cases in the year 2020 in India.

This can only be halted if women go for routine test of cancers or their checks earlier and knowing about early symptoms & causes for female cancers appropriately but alas, there exist no routine and regular cancers screening among many women. Modifiable and preventable risk factors account for about 70 percent of total cancer cases in India and late-stage cancer treatment has profound economic and socio-cultural effects on people. Thus, 70% of all cancer instances might have been avoided by appropriate screening and by leading a healthy life.

Making some simple life style changes like daily exercise, healthy balanced diet, abstinence from tobacco and too much alcohol can drastically reduce the risk of cancers. Women should then collaborate with their healthcare specialist to formulate a suitable screening plan depending on their age, family history, and other predisposing factors. They may detect risk factors associated with diseases, enabling them to make early interventions to avert the diseases. Moreover, women should also know about their health risks like whether there is a predisposition for the disease in the family. Therefore, women need to speak up on their own behalf by asking questions, voicing worries and asking for a second opinion when necessary. So, they should actively take part in their own healthcare and say what bothers them. Secondly, they should form a network that will actuate emotional and practicability. Therefore, women have a responsibility to preserve their health, including by cutting down on cancer. Today, Medflick has brought the list of most common cancer in women below. This information can keep abreast with some important facts because we believe that knowing women cancer sign & symptoms is the call of scenario.

What is Cancer?

Different diseases under the single name “cancer” can be enumerated into over 100. It can grow almost anywhere within the body. Each human body is constituted with cells, which are their fundamental units. The body uses cells that grow or divide creating new cells when they are needed. There would be cell death for normal cells in their dying stages. New cells replace them then.

This orderly process is disrupted by genetic changes resulting into cancer initiation. Cells start to grow uncontrollably. Tumors are formed by these cells that form a bulk known as tumor. Tumors may be either cancerous or benign. Tumors are either cancerous or benign depending on whether the latter can be further classified as malignant, which spreads and grows extensively. A benign tumor is one that can grow, although does not spread.

However, there are also those cancers that do not give a tumor but have a similar effect on cell growth like the one being discussed above. These include a number of diseases such as leukemia, most lymphomas, and myeloblastoma.

Most Common Cancer in Women

1. Breast Cancer

Breast cancer, one of the types of cancer in women, is projected to constitute 30 percent of female cancer cases and contribute to 14 percent of the anticipated 282,500 female cancer-related fatalities in 2017. The likelihood of a woman developing breast cancer is estimated at 1 in 8. While preventing breast cancer is not straightforward, as numerous risk factors are beyond one's control, understanding prevalent risk factors can aid in managing those that can be influenced. Two-thirds of women diagnosed with invasive breast cancer are aged 55 or older. Risk doubles with a family history of breast cancer, and triples with two immediate relatives affected. 5 to 10 percent of breast cancers are attributed to hereditary gene mutations, with BRCA1 and BRCA2 being the most common. Previous chest radiation, especially during breast development, heightens the risk. A greater number of menstrual periods, early onset of menstruation, and late first pregnancy slightly elevate risk. Birth control pills, past use of diethylstilbestrol (DES), post-menopausal hormone therapy, and not breastfeeding can impact risk. Overweight status, lack of exercise, heavy drinking, and red meat consumption are associated with increased breast cancer risk. Weight loss, regular exercise, and dietary modifications can potentially reduce breast cancer risk.

2. Lung and Bronchus Cancer 

Lung and bronchus cancers are anticipated to contribute to 12 percent of female cancer cases and result in 25 percent of female cancer-related deaths in 2017. The likelihood of a woman developing lung cancer is estimated at 1 in 17.

While breast cancer surpasses lung cancer in prevalence among women, the latter is considerably more fatal. Notably, a significant portion of lung cancer cases, around 80 percent in women and 90 percent in men, could be prevented by avoiding smoking. Smokers face a significantly elevated risk, being 15 to 30 times more likely to develop or succumb to lung cancer compared to nonsmokers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Family history also plays a role in lung cancer risk.

Several environmental factors increase the risk of lung cancer, including exposure to secondhand smoke, radon gas, asbestos, arsenic (inhaled or in drinking water), diesel exhaust, and air pollution. Adopting a healthy lifestyle, incorporating exercise and a balanced diet, along with limiting alcohol intake, can contribute to reducing lung cancer risk. Even for former smokers, especially those with a 30-year history of smoking a pack of cigarettes daily, annual specialized low-dose CT scans are recommended for early detection.

3. Colon and Rectal Cancer

Colon and rectal cancers collectively contribute to 8 percent of all cancer cases and account for 8 percent of female cancer-related deaths. The likelihood of a woman developing colon or rectal cancer is estimated at 1 in 24.

While these cancers can manifest in young adults and teenagers, the majority of cases are diagnosed in adults aged 50 and above. The average age of diagnosis for women with colon cancer is 72, and for men, it is 68, as reported by the American Society for Clinical Oncology. Beyond age, various controllable risk factors include:

  • Personal or family history of colorectal cancer or polyps
  • Inflammatory bowel diseases like ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease
  • Inactivity
  • Smoking
  • Heavy drinking
  • Diet high in red or processed meat or low in fruits and vegetables
  • Overweight or obesity
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • African-American or Ashkenazi Jew descent

Early detection is crucial, particularly for colon and rectal cancers. Abnormal cell growth in the colon typically takes 10 to 15 years, underscoring the importance of regular colonoscopy screenings to identify and remove polyps before they become problematic. 

Additionally, studies indicate that adequate calcium intake, either through diet or supplements, is associated with a reduced risk of colorectal cancers. Managing risk factors by limiting red and processed meat intake while increasing fiber consumption can further contribute to risk reduction. Fiber promotes the swift movement of fecal matter through the colon, minimizing exposure to carcinogens and reducing the risk of these cancers.

4. Uterine Cancer

Uterine cancer contributes to 7 percent of all cancer cases and accounts for 4 percent of female cancer-related deaths. The likelihood of a woman developing uterine cancer is estimated at 1 in 36. Also known as endometrial cancer, uterine cancer specifically affects the lining of the uterus, known as the endometrium. It is the most prevalent cancer affecting female reproductive organs, surpassing cervical and ovarian cancers. Unlike cervical cancer, uterine cancer is not linked to HPV.

Hormonal changes, particularly those related to estrogen, play a pivotal role in uterine cancer risk. Similar to breast cancer, uterine cancer can thrive on estrogen. Factors influencing hormone levels and increasing uterine cancer risk include postmenopausal estrogen use, birth control pills, a higher lifetime count of menstrual cycles, tamoxifen use for breast cancer, nulliparity, obesity, and certain ovarian tumors or polycystic ovarian syndrome.

  • Additional risk factors for uterine cancer are:
  • High-fat or high-calorie diet
  • Age
  • Diabetes
  • Family history of uterine or colon cancer
  • Personal history of breast or ovarian cancer
  • Endometrial hyperplasia, characterized by thickening of the uterine lining

Interestingly, the use of a non-hormonal intrauterine device (IUD) for birth control has been associated with a reduced risk of uterine cancer.

5. Thyroid Cancer

Thyroid cancer is anticipated to contribute to 5 percent of all cancer cases and result in 3 percent of all deaths in 2017. The likelihood of a woman developing thyroid cancer is estimated at 1 in 57. As many risk factors for thyroid cancer are beyond one's control, preventing most cases of this disease may not be feasible, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). Nevertheless, awareness of these risk factors is crucial to enable individuals at an elevated risk to undergo necessary tests for early diagnosis and treatment of potential tumors.
Factors that can heighten the risk of thyroid cancer include:

  • Gender (being female)
  • Age (women are commonly diagnosed in their 40s or 50s)
  • Specific genetic mutations, such as the RET gene (detectable through blood tests, particularly if there is a family history of medullary thyroid cancer)
  • Family history of medullary thyroid cancer, other thyroid cancers, familial adenomatous polyposis, Cowden disease, or Carney complex type I
  • Low iodine diet
  • Radiation exposure

To Summarize

While many risk factors are beyond control, making lifestyle improvements, such as simple alterations to diet and exercise habits, can enhance overall health and reduce the risk of cancers commonly affecting women.
Click here to get expert advice on Most Common Cancer in Women

Frequently Ask Question

Q1: What is the most common cancer for women?
The most common cancer in women is breast cancer other than skin cancer. It begins in the breast tissue and have potential to spread also to the lymph nodes present under the arms.

Q2: What are the top 5 most common cancers in women?
The top 5 most common cancers in women are breast cancer, lung & bronchus cancer, colon & rectal cancer, uterine cancer, and thyroid cancer.

Q3: What are the 5 most common cancers?
The 5 most common cancers are breast, lung, colon &rectum, prostate, and oral cancers.

Q4: What are the types of female cancer?
The cervical, breast, ovarian, vaginal, uterine, and vulvar cancers are the types of female cancer.

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