Previous studies have considered the link between smoking and breast cancer, as a number of biological reasons exist in order to indicate its plausibility. However, evidence to support this claim has proven to be inconclusive.
A new investigation of 102,927 women conducted by the Breast Cancer Now Generations Study discovered that smoking is related to the likelihood of breast cancer. This information poses a great significance for women who already have a high risk of the disease because of their family history.
The study indicates that female smokers with a family history of breast cancer are 35 percent more likely to contract the disease than people with the same history who didn’t smoke.
For the study, researchers obtained the smoking history of the participants using questionnaires at the beginning of the study and during their follow-up. The questions determined if they had smoked prior to the study, the frequency and amount they had smoked, and what age they began and stopped. The participants were then monitored for at least seven years, with additional information gathered to adjust any changes made by other risk factors such as alcohol.
The analysis showed that 1,815 women in the sample developed the disease — 14 percent of women who smoked had a higher chance of getting breast cancer over those who did not. Consequently, those who started smoking at an early age were also at a higher risk of developing the disease. Individuals who started smoking before the age of 17 were 24 percent more likely to develop the disease, and women who started smoking between the ages of 17 and 19 were 15 percent more likely to get breast cancer over those who did not smoke.
The research also delved into the impact of smoking duration and discovered that people who smoked for over 10 years were 21 percent more likely to contract the disease. People who have smoked for at least 30 years also have an increased risk of getting breast cancer.
The consequences of smoking can be far-reaching: Its effects can even be felt 20 years after the person last smoked. Individuals who have not smoked for less than 10 years still have a 28 percent increase in breast cancer risk, while those have not smoked for at least 20 years are still 22 percent more likely to develop breast cancer over those who have not smoked.
The study adds weight to claims that breast cancer is another type of cancer that is brought about by smoking. Additionally, a woman may still carry the risk of developing breast cancer well after she has stopped smoking. The ramifications discussed by the study highlight the need to further examine the impacts that smoking can have on women who started at a young age, where breast development is still in a susceptible state. (Related: Smoking causes up to 40% of cancer deaths in the US… so why are cigarettes still sold by pharmacies?)
“We particularly found an association in women with a family history of breast cancer and women who started smoking before the age of 17,” lead author Anthony Swerdlow reports. “There are already extremely strong health reasons not to smoke. However, the data on breast cancer add a further factor for women, especially those who are young, to take into account.”
Breast cancer is the second most common cancer in the U.S. after skin cancer. While it is normally associated with women, there have been rare cases where men have also developed breast cancer. According to data, at least three million women in the U.S. currently have breast cancer. In 2017 alone, the National Cancer Institute has reported about 252,710 new cases.
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