According to an article recently published in Breast Cancer Research and Treatment, women who smoke cigarettes-particularly those who begin smoking early in life, smoke several cigarettes per day, and continue to smoke for long periods of time-appear to have an increased risk of developing breast cancer.
Breast cancer is diagnosed in over 200,000 women annually in the United States alone. Because it is so prevalent, researchers continue to evaluate ways to prevent breast cancer and to identify patients who may be at a high risk of developing the disease. Patients at a high risk for breast cancer may be appropriately screened so that cancer may be detected and treated early, in its most curable stages.
Studies have not provided consistent results regarding the association of smoking and the risk of developing breast cancer. Some recent studies, however, have indicated a possible increased risk of breast cancer among women who initiate smoking prior to their first pregnancy and/or those who have smoked for a long duration of time. Researchers continue to evaluate the possible association between smoking and breast cancer.
Researchers from New York and Toronto recently conducted a study to further investigate smoking and breast cancer risk. This study included nearly 90,000 women who had enrolled in the Canadian National Breast Screening Study (NBSS) to evaluate mammography in the screening of breast cancer. Women were aged 40–59 and were enrolled between 1980 and 1985. The average follow-up was over 16 years.
- Breast cancer risk was increased by 50% among women who had smoked for 40 years or longer, compared to never-smokers.
- Breast cancer risk was increased by 20% among women who smoked 40 cigarettes or more per day, compared to never-smokers.
- Breast cancer risk was increased by 17% among women with a 40 pack-year history, compared to never-smokers.
The researchers concluded that it appears that cigarette smoking may increase the risk of developing breast cancer among women who are heavy smokers and those who have smoked for a long duration of time. Patients who are cigarette smokers may wish to speak with their physician regarding smoking cessation programs and/or agents to help with smoking cessation.
Reference: Cui Y, Miller A, Rohan T. Cigarette smoking and breast cancer risk: update of a prospective cohort study. Breast Cancer Treatment and Research. 2006; 100:293-299.