Smoking now or smoking in the past has been found to significantly increase the risk that breast cancer will spread, and eventually cause death. This finding comes from a new, large study among female breast cancer patients.
It is a stark reminder that cancer patients should not worsen their odds by taking the risky step of flooding their lungs with further carcinogens every day.
Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, found that women who are current smokers or have a history of smoking had a 39% higher rate of dying from breast cancer. That stayed true even after they accounted for a wide number of factors. The results were presented at the AACR Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research Conference last week.
Though smoking is linked with lung cancer and implicated in several other cancers, it is still up for debate what effect it has on breast cancer — which is one of the most common cancers in the world. More specifically, it has been unclear how long women can live after being diagnosed with breast cancer. And it has been unclear whether cigarette smoking raises the risk of mortality because it makes the breast cancer worse or if there is another link that is affecting life expectancy.
On that note, researchers set out to examine the relationship between smoking and the risk of death due to either to breast cancer or non-breast-cancer causes in 2,265 women diagnosed between 1997 and 2000. The women were followed for an average of nine years.
The results: 164 deaths from breast cancer and 120 deaths from non-breast-cancer causes occurred during follow-up.
Those women who were smokers or past smokers had a twofold higher risk for dying from non-breast-cancer-related causes compared to women with breast cancer who had never smoked.
Furthermore, they tried to see if body weight, menopause or type of breast cancer played a role. Then they found that current or past smokers who had a “HER2-negative” type of breast cancer had a 61% greater risk for breast cancer death compared to non-smokers. Overweight smokers had an 83% greater risk for breast cancer death. For postmenopausal women, the figure was 47%.
It is simply critical to try and quit smoking — for anyone. But for those with breast cancer it is, as the evidence shows, imperative. In the face of cancer, you have to do what you can for yourself.