Health Magazine

Smoking…Does It Increase Your Risk of Breast Cancer?

Posted on the 14 April 2011 by Jean Campbell

A recently published study by a panel of experts links smoking to an increased risk for developing breast cancer.

While there is really nothing good to say about smoking, until now little has been said linking an increased risk for breast cancer to smoking or exposure to second hand smoke.

The New York Times reported on a study by a panel of U.S. and Canadian experts which disputes a long-held view among scientists that smoking does not increase the risk of  breast cancer in women. The panel, which was funded by the Public Health Agency of Canada, included 10 breast cancer and public health experts from Canada and the U.S. The report summarizes the panelists’ review of newer studies that have been released in the past six or seven years, an analysis method that panelists said helped to distinguish differences between women who had never been exposed to smoke and those who had, either by smoking themselves or through secondhand smoke.

The panel cited several newer studies that suggest women who start smoking when they are young increase their risk of breast cancer by 20% and that many years of heavy smoking could increase the risk by up to 30%. The panelists did not attempt to quantify how many excess breast cancers are caused by exposure to smoke.

Many experts, not involved in the panel and its report, have gone on record as saying there  is still not enough evidence to say definitively that smoking can cause breast cancer.

Michael Thun, a former vice president of epidemiology and surveillance research for the American Cancer Society, said that although it is “definitely plausible” that smoking can cause breast cancer, he “think[s] the jury is still way out.” He said, “The issue is, what’s the level of the evidence? That’s where the disagreement exists” (Rabin, New York Times, 4/24).

Sources for content – The NY Times and The National Partnership http://www.nationalpartnership.org. You can view the entire Daily Women’s Health Policy Report, search the archives, or sign up for email delivery here. The Daily Women’s Health Policy Report is a free service of the National Partnership for Women & Families, published by The Advisory Board Company.


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