Smoking May Raise Breast Cancer Risk

A new study has found that <"">premenopausal smoking, especially if that smoking occurs prior to a woman giving birth, could be linked with an increase in risks for breast cancer, said Science Daily. The study appears in the January 24 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, a JAMA/Archives journal.

“Breast cancer is the most common cancer to affect women worldwide,” said background information in the article, quoted Science Daily. “Tobacco smoke contains potential human breast carcinogens, including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, aromatic amines, and N-nitrosamines,” the article added.

Smoking is the leading preventable cause of death in America, with cigarettes linked to some 443,000 deaths and $100 billion spent in healthcare costs annually.

Fei Xue, M.D., Sc.D., of Brigham and Woman’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, and colleagues, reviewed the records of 111,140 women (1976 to 2006) for active smoking and 36,017 (1982 to 2006) for secondhand smoke exposure, said Science Daily. Data was collected from the Nurses’ Health Study.

During follow-up, said Science Daily, 8,772 breast cancer cases developed and were linked to an increased incidence of “current and past smoking, smoking for a longer period of time, younger age at smoking initiation, and more pack-years,” said Science Daily, which noted that pack years has to do with the “number of packs per day and the number of years that quantity was smoked.”

“Smoking before menopause was positively associated with breast cancer risk, and there were hints from our results that smoking after menopause might be associated with a slightly decreased breast cancer risk,” the authors wrote, quoted Science Daily. “This difference suggests an anti-estrogenic effect of smoking among postmenopausal women that may further reduce their already low endogenous estrogen levels,” the authors continued. An increase in the risk for breast cancer was not linked to never smoking and second-hand smoke exposure, said Science Daily.

“In the present study, we created an index of active smoking that integrates quantity, age at which one started smoking and duration of smoking,” the authors concluded, reported Science Daily. “The results suggested that, although an elevated risk for light smokers and moderate smokers was not apparent, heavy smokers who started smoking early in life, smoked for a long duration and smoked a high quantity were at the highest risk of breast cancer, supporting an independent and additive effect from various smoking measures on breast carcinogenesis,” the authors concluded.

In 2008, we cited a study that found that exposure to nicotine—the addictive ingredient in tobacco—can contribute to breast cancer metastasis, the spread of cancer to other parts of the body that kills many patients. The study was published in Cancer Research.

Researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School, Boston, said that nicotine did not appear to cause metastasis and tumor growth on its own, but that they were unable to determine exactly what molecules nicotine must combine with to encourage cancer spread.

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