[ Watch the Video: Smoking Can Also Give You Breast Cancer ]
Brett Smith for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
Cigarette smoking has frequently been linked to cancers of the respiratory system, but a new study has found that smoking can also greatly increase the risk of a certain breast cancer in women.
According to a study recently published in the journal Cancer, young women who smoke a pack per day for a decade or longer have a much greater risk of having the most common kind of breast cancer.
While some past reports have established the relationship between smoking and elevated breast cancer risk among young women, not many have looked into risks based on different subtypes of breast cancer.
“I think there is a growing appreciation that breast cancer is not just one disease and there are many different subtypes,” study author Dr. Christopher Li, of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, told Reuters. “In this study, we were able to look at the different molecular subtypes and how smoking affects them.”
To investigate, the study team recruited nearly 780 patients with estrogen receptor positive breast cancer and just over 180 patients with triple-negative breast cancer. Estrogen receptor positive breast cancer is the most typical subtype of breast cancer, while triple-negative breast cancer is less frequent but can be more aggressive. Female participants were 20 to 44 years old and were diagnosed between 2004 and 2010 in the Seattle-Puget Sound metropolitan area in Washington State. The study also included nearly 940 participants who did not have a cancer diagnosis.
Overall, study participants who had smoked were about 30 percent more likely to develop any type of breast cancer, compared to non-smokers. The scientists also found that participants who were smokers during the study – or had recently quit and had been smoking a pack daily for at least 10 years – had a 60 percent elevated risk of estrogen receptor positive breast cancer. The researchers did not find a connection between triple-negative breast cancer and smoking.
The researchers speculated that some of the substances found in cigarettes could be acting like estrogen and disrupt that hormonal cycle, which would explain the elevated risk of estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer.
“There are so many different chemicals in cigarette smoke that can have so many kinds of effects,” Li said.
“The health hazards associated with smoking are numerous and well known,” he added. “This study adds to our knowledge in suggesting that with respect to breast cancer, smoking may increase the risk of the most common molecular subtype of breast cancer but not influence risk of one of the rarer, more aggressive subtypes.”
While smoking is a personal choice that could affect the risk of developing cancer, some people are genetically predisposed to contracting the disease. A recent poll from the University of Utah’s Huntsman Cancer Institute found that 34 percent of respondents would not request genetic testing to predict their likelihood of developing a genetic cancer – even if the cost of the testing was not an issue.
The poll also found that 35 percent of respondents would be extremely or very likely to seek aggressive preventive treatment, such as a mastectomy, if they had a family history of cancer and genetic testing indicated a high genetic risk for the disease.