Can Smoking Impact Your Breast Cancer Risk?

Posted by: BeneFIT Corporate Wellness
Date: October 20, 2014

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among American women. In addition to gender, there are a number of risk factors that can increase the likelihood of developing breast cancer, such as aging, family history, alcohol use, obesity, exposure to high dose of radiation, as well as birth control pills and hormone drug use.

Another potential risk is smoking. While the possible connection has raised some debate in the past, new research by the American Cancer Society suggests a link, especially for women who start smoking at a young age.

Increased risks for younger smokers

According to the Centers for Disease Control, most people start smoking as a teenager. In fact, nearly 9 out of 10 smokers start smoking by age 18, and 99% start by age 26. Concern over tobacco use in young women has increased since researchers discovered a connection between early smoking and breast cancer risk. While the risk of developing breast cancer is 24 percent higher in female smokers and 13 percent higher in former female smokers (as compared to nonsmokers), results from a 2013 study also found that women who started smoking at a young age, especially prior to the birth of their first child, tend to have even higher rates of breast cancer. This insight may be attributed to that fact that breast tissue may be more vulnerable to cancer before it is fully mature.

Preventive screenings and guidance

In light of these recent findings, women should consider a potential link to breast cancer when thinking of their own smoking habits and those of the young women in their lives. It also means that women who smoke, especially long-time smokers, should be aware of the early signs of breast cancer. Preventive screenings and guidance from primary health care providers are important to identify these abnormal changes to the body.

Here are 3 critical tips for breast cancer prevention:

Regular exams – Routine at-home self-exams and breast exams by your doctor are important to notice changes in your breasts.

Mammograms – If you are a woman aged 40-49, ask your doctor about when to start mammograms. If you are 50 years of age or more, the current recommendation is to get a mammogram every 2 years. Women with a family history of breast cancer may need to start screenings earlier or discuss genetic testing with their doctor.

Risk management – You can protect yourself further from breast cancer by maintaining a healthy weight and avoiding alcohol. Birth control pills, hormone therapy replacement, and exposure to high doses of radiation are other risks to discuss with your doctor. Take control of your health: put out that last cigarette and manage your personal risk factors to protect yourself against breast cancer.

If you would like more information about the connection between breast cancer and smoking, along with preventive screenings and tobacco cessation programs, please contact us.

The information presented is for your general knowledge and does not replace the advice of your health care provider. All medical inquiries regarding your health should be presented to your health care provider.

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