Breast Cancer Awareness and Smoking

The month of October as been designated as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month to remind women the need for self-exams and mammograms.  The stigma of breast cancer has gone from being whispered about in the past to now being discussed on live television during football games.

pink_ribbonAs new treatments and therapies are developed for breast cancer, there are more survivors, but sadly there are also too many who have lost their life to this disease. Some of the risk factors for breast cancer can’t be controlled, such as being a woman, age, or family history, but one factor can, and that is your use of tobacco.

When looking at the relationship between breast cancer and smoking, researchers have found risks that increased the possibility of getting the disease.  One such increased risk factor is for those women who start smoking early, before their first menstrual cycle.  Those women had a 61% higher risk of invasive breast cancer.  If a woman started smoking after her first menstrual cycle, but “11 or more years before having a child,” she still had a 45% higher risk” than nonsmokers.  The reason given is that “breast tissue is not fully developed until after a woman has her first child, and that makes it more sensitive to the harmful effects of tobacco.”

Being exposed to high levels of secondhand smoke may also increase the risk of breast cancer. According to the 2014 Surgeon General’s report, “the evidence is suggestive but not sufficient to infer a causal relationship between tobacco smoke and breast cancer… or between exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke and breast cancer.” Secondhand smoke and the risk for breast cancer is still being studied, however, it has produced breast cancer in laboratory rodents.

Smoking not only raises your risk of breast cancer, but raises the risk of other cancers and health issues, such as lung cancer, heart disease, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).  Smoking also makes it difficult to heal after surgery, and women who smoked and opted for breast reconstructive surgery after a mastectomy were three times more likely to suffer implant loss than nonsmokers.

There are many factors for the risk of breast cancer that you can’t control, but smoking is one that you can.

Pink ribbon from Breast Cancer Awareness

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