Several studies in the past decade and a half have looked at the link between smoking and breast cancer risk. Findings of a recent study suggest young women may be increasing their risk for developing a common type of cancer by smoking. The findings of the study revealed that women between the ages of 20 and 44 increased their chances of developing breast cancer by 60 percent if they smoked a pack of cigarettes a day for a decade.
The type of cancer developed by patients in the study was called estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer. The senior author associated with the study, Dr. Christopher Li, suggested to news agency Reuters that associating cigarette smoking with breast cancer was important.
However, this study isn’t the first of its kind to come to find a link between breast cancer and cigarette smoking.
Several Studies Find Cancer Link
In a lengthy review in 2002 of prior cancer studies, doctors associated with the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), found that there could be a “positive association” between tobacco smoke and the growth of breast cancer, or mammary tumors. However, one of the problems that doctors found during the investigation was that prior studies often lacked consistency of results.
The newly published study isn’t the first one conducted by Dr. Li and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. In 2005, Dr. Li and his colleagues found a link between cigarette smoking and the development of breast cancer in postmenopausal women between the ages of 60 and 79.
One of the frightening aspects of that study was the combination of hormone-replacement therapy (HRT) and smoking. Research found that long-term smokers who also had hormone-replacement therapy increased their risk of getting breast cancer by over 100 percent. The study included data from almost 2,000 participants.
Recent Studies Continue to Find Cancer Connections
Another study regarding breast cancer risk and smoking was published in 2013. The study found that women smokers who had not yet given birth were at increased risk to develop breast cancer.
One of the issues that was brought to light in this study was the problem of studying smokers who developed breast cancer and the incidence of alcohol consumption. Women smokers commonly drink alcohol on a regular basis and so studying the link between cigarettes and breast cancer has been difficult because alcohol has clouded results.
One thing that has not been made clear is whether or not smokeless alternatives, like e-cigarettes, pose a threat to women’s health or are a potential cause for breast cancer. While there is much evidence that they are a safer alternative, considerable research still needs to be done before the medical community will be able to give a definitive answer.
Breast Cancer Remains Common
In statistics that stretch back to 1992, the National Cancer Institute, which is part of the federal government’s National Institutes of Health, counted somewhere between 135,000 and 145,000 new cases of breast cancer each year. Regarding total population, those numbers mean that around one in eight women in the United States will develop breast cancer. The risk goes up as a woman ages.
The American Cancer Society lists smoking as one of the risk factors for breast cancer, in addition to diet and alcohol. Some people have risk factors that are part of their identity, like gender, genetics, and age, which can’t be changed. However, quitting smoking, which is a habit that can be changed, is essential for reducing the likelihood of developing cancer.