Bengaluru: Oncologists in the city say that nulliparous women -- who haven’t given birth to a child by choice or due to medical reasons -- and those who opt out of breastfeeding their baby are more prone to breast cancer than breastfeeding mothers.

8% to 10% of breast cancer cases are found among nulliparous women. The number was not more than 3% to 5% 10 years ago.

Director, Healthcare Global Enterprises, Prof Dr Gopinath KS reportedly said that this is a worrying trend as many women are not keen on getting married or giving birth to children. This has a direct impact on hormonal imbalance in a woman, increasing the risk of cancer, he said.

According to doctors, there is a rise in the number of couples who have decided not to have children, women delaying childbirth or marriage and infertility rate.

Professor in surgical oncology, Kidwai Memorial Institute of Oncology, Dr Ravi Arjunan reportedly said that nulliparity was an established risk factor for breast cancer. He said that the concern now is the rising number of such women who become victims of breast cancer. He said that breastfeeding reduces cancer risk and hence these women are more vulnerable.

Gopinath pointed out that even among married and child-bearing women, the cancer risk has increased due to change in lifestyle. Smoking, Alcohol consumption, food habits and lack of breastfeeding leads to hormonal imbalance.

According to a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist, breast milk is produced by prolactin hormone and during the breastfeeding phase, women have less exposure to estrogen and progesterone hormones. To that extent, a woman who has breastfed a baby is at a lesser risk.

However, doctors said that the survival rate of breast cancer patients has increased over the years. According to Dr Sandeep Nayak, director, surgical oncology at Fortis Hospital, 10 years ago, the survival rate of someone surviving stage-3 breast cancer was 55% while now it is over 80%. If a patient comes for treatment in the first or second stage for breast cancer, the survival rate is now 95%. It was 83% earlier.