Cigarette Smoking and Breast Cancer Outcomes

March 11, 2016

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Take-Home Message:

Cigarette smoking in breast cancer patients is associated with a higher rate of death from breast cancer.

 

Summary

Cigarette Smoking Before and After Breast Cancer Diagnosis: Mortality From Breast Cancer and Smoking-Related Diseases

Authors: Passarelli M, Newcomb PA, Hampton JM, et al.
Source: J Clin Oncol. published January 25, 2016. doi: 10.1200/JCO.2015.63.9328
jco.ascopubs.org/content/early/2016/01/21/JCO.2015.63.9328.abstract

It is generally understood that smoking has a direct effect on breast health, and that it has some association with the development of breast cancer.  This group examined survival among female cigarette smokers diagnosed with breast cancer.  Using a database of over 23,000 women diagnosed with breast cancer in three states, the investigators successfully contacted over 4,500 subjects for this study.  These women replied to a mailed questionnaire which asked details about their health and their smoking history.

Compared to women who had never smoked, women who actively smoked one year prior to breast cancer diagnosis had a 25% greater chance of dying from breast cancer.  There was a tendency for women who quit smoking after diagnosis to have a lower risk of death due to breast cancer compared to women who continued to smoke.  Women who quit following diagnosis also had a lower risk of death from respiratory cancer and cardiovascular disease.

There were some limitations of the study.  For example, the investigators did not know if respondents who had smoked within a year of breast cancer diagnosis subsequently quit.  They also did not have hormone receptor and HER2 status for each patient.  Nonetheless, this study does find a relationship between cigarette smoking and decreased breast cancer related survival.  It may strengthen the resolve of a patient and her provider to help her break the smoking habit.