Late Marriages: A Biological Disaster?

Marriage is a union of two souls. It should be done at proper time. However, Kashmir society urban areas in particular has witnessed a delayed marriages’ trend. Scholar Zeenat Farooq deciphers how late marriage is detrimental to a woman’s health, her child besides being a social problem

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Marriage is an important institution in our society; a spiritual union of two souls, and abstaining oneself from it for a long time has resulted in far reaching implications ranging from extra-marital affairs to adultery and from frustration to suicide. But abstaining oneself from marriage means much more than this so long as the biological view point is concerned. Some of the haunting implications have surfaced in the form of increased rates of breast cancer in women and genetic abnormalities in children.

Breast Cancer?

Breast cancer is most prevalent cancer type among women globally accounting for about 25% of all cancers. Breast cancer most commonly develops in cells from the lining of milk ducts and the lobules that supply the ducts with milk.

In a woman’s life span, there are many changes which occur to Breast cells. Starting from childhood, through puberty, pregnancy, child birth and finally menopause, Breast tissue remains one of the most dynamically regulated tissues whose physiology and function changes in accordance with the physiological state and age of a woman. Therefore, any change which alters the dynamic regulatory mechanism of Breast cell development can contribute to the development of Breast Cancer.

Normally, the cells of our body grow and divide in a regulated manner to replace old and damaged cells and keep the body functioning properly. However, when a cell divides uncontrollably (due to some mishaps in our DNA), it is said to have become cancerous and the resulting in mass or lump of uncontrollably dividing cells, which is called as the cancer, disturbs the equilibrium of body by spreading to other parts of body and can result in the death of a person.

There is a multitude of wide ranging factors which pave the way for either developing or increasing the chances of developing Breast cancer. Some of the most important factors which increase the risk of developing Breast cancer are obesity, lack of physical exercise, alcohol consumption, hormone replacement therapy during menopause (to compensate for the hormones which are no longer secreted due to menstrual cycle cessation at menopause), ionizing radiation, early age at first menstruation, old age and family history.

Breast Cancer in Valley?

Although, in our valley, Breast cancer still lags behind oesophageal cancer in terms of incidence, but the annual number of reported cases have steeply risen over the past decade (cancer registry, SKIMS) and it now threatens to outnumber oesophageal cancer in women.

Among other factors which have resulted in increase in the number of reported cases of Breast Cancer from different parts of the valley, marrying at a late age has been attributed as one of the major factors which increase the risk of developing Breast cancer. One of the explanations for this increased likelihood derives from the fact that women who marry and conceive at a late age (35 or above), there occurs some changes in the Breasts. The Breast cells divide at a faster rate. As a result of the age of such women, there are always chances of accumulating some damages inside DNA, which will pass on to the newly formed cells. Such a large number of defective dividing cells are highly likely to become cancerous. On the other hand, if an expectant mother is younger in age (20-25), the dividing cells will be healthy. Also, it has been proved by research that younger mothers experience a long term protective benefit against Breast cancer.

Genetic Abnormalities

In addition to Breast cancer, women who marry late, have a high propensity of having children with genetic abnormalities, which again happens because of division of cells which are highly likely to contain damaged DNA. These mothers pass such defected DNA to their children which results in such children having congenital genetic defects like Down’s Syndrome etc. However, not only women, but men who marry late are also at an increased risk of passing defective DNA to their off springs leading to genetic abnormalities.

Tail Piece

In the light of above given facts, it becomes clear that the growing trend of late marriages in our society should be taken seriously. It becomes a personal, social and moral responsibility of every individual of our society in general and parents in particular to see to it that their children get married at a right age so as to safe guard them from the social and otherwise ill effects of late marriage.

Also, it becomes imperative for our doctors, health care providers, other government agencies and NGOs to educate people regarding such issues. No less important is to mention that Cancer, although a debilitating and life threatening medical condition, can be prevented to a very substantial extent by increasing mass awareness and by adopting a healthy lifestyle.

Author is a Research Scholar in the Department of Biotechnology, Kashmir University.

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