The link between smoking and breast disease is still controversial. While the results of cancer studies have been contradictory, chemicals in tobacco smoke do reach breast tissue and are found in breast milk. Now, new research from Roswell Park Cancer Institute in New York has found reduced breast cancer rates in women who have less documented exposure to tobacco smoke. The investigators looked at breast cancer rates in states that have higher percentages of non-smoking rules and thus more women working and living in smoke-free areas, and found that deaths from the disease were significantly lower, particularly for younger, premenopausal women. They attributed about 20 percent of the decrease to changes in policies governing smoking at work and at home (some residences prohibit smoking inside apartments where the smoke can infiltrate the living spaces of non-smokers). The investigators said it was “noteworthy” that declining incidence of and mortality rates from breast cancer were linked to state legislation prohibiting smoking in both the home and workplace. The study was published online on March 12 by the journal Tobacco Control.
My take? It is very interesting to learn that there is a positive pay-off to living and working in smoke-free environments in terms of breast cancer risk. We know that exposure to secondhand smoke leads to an estimated 46,000 heart disease deaths each year in non-smokers who live with smokers as well as some 3,400 lung cancer deaths in non-smoking adults. Pregnant women exposed to secondhand smoke are at increased risk of having low birth weight babies. For the sake of your health, don’t smoke, and avoid secondhand exposure to smoke.