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Young Women Smokers May Have Higher Breast Cancer Risk

Deborah Shipley's picture

A recent study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine concluded that young women who smoke regularly have a higher risk for getting breast cancer.

The medical records of 111,140 active female smokers from 1976-2006 were collected for the Nurses’ Health Study which also looked at 36, 017 women that inhaled second-hand smoke from 1982-2006.

This study found the incidence of breast cancer diagnoses increased with women who started smoking at an early age, smoked for the longest time period, and smoked the most cigarettes in a day.

The study concluded:

"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 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."

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There was no association found with passive, or second-hand smoke inhalation over time.

Breast cancer is the highest incidence of cancer for women globally. Previous studies have either not found a link between smoking and breast cancer diagnoses, or have been controversial in nature. This particular study suggests that there may be an increase in the prevalence of breast cancer in women that have smoked regularly and for an extended period of time.

This conclusion might suggest that not picking up the cigarette habit in the first place would be the best decision for a young woman to make. If her risk factors might increase with the length of time she has been smoking, prevention is the key. Parents and schools can partner together in educating young women about the hazards of smoking and the long term health effects.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has various smoking prevention programs in place. Celebrities Against Smoking and the Tobacco-Free Sports Initiative are two such programs. You can read more about them at : http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/youth/index.htm

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