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Study Finds Mixed Results of the Effects of Smoking on Breast Cancer Risk

Smoking may increase the risk of developing terminal breast cancer by 30 percent.

A new study published in the Feb. 12, 2015, edition of the New England Journal of Medicine found that smoking was linked to more deaths than originally thought, including increasing the risk of women contracting breast cancer.

The study
Researchers from the National Cancer Institute, American Cancer Society and several universities studied almost 1 million people and found that there are more diseases linked with premature death than previously thought. It is widely known that smoking causes lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, esophageal cancer, heart disease and mouth cancer. But now scientists think the habit is linked to more illnesses.

According to NPR, study author and strategic director of pharmacoepidemiology at the ACS Eric Jacobs helped to identify other diseases to add to the growing list of those linked to tobacco, which includes breast cancer, kidney failure, hypertensive heart disease, prostate cancer and infections  A smoker has twice the risk of dying from these diseases as a nonsmoker.

The study found that smokers were 30 percent more likely to die of breast cancer, specifically, than nonsmokers. Because people who smoke are also more likely to drink alcohol, researchers were hesitant to pinpoint smoking as the cause as drinking may also play an important roll.

Smoking and the body
Tobacco found in cigarettes, snuff and other  smokeless forms can suppress the immune system, making the body more susceptible to cancer. It can also slow the healing process during treatment for the disease. It is not known if second hand smoke increases cancer risk, but exposure to secondhand smoke chemicals has been known to cause breast cancer in rodents.

The chemicals found in tobacco products can also reach babies when a woman who is breast feeding chooses to use tobacco. That is one of the many reasons why cigarettes and other tobacco products are not recommended for consumption by women who are pregnant or nursing.

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