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Is there is a link between passive smoking and breast cancer?

 

It has been suggested that cigarette smoking (both active and passive) is a risk factor for breast cancer, but results of studies addressing these relationships have not been consistent. This meta-analysis examines the association between passive smoking and breast cancer risk.

Bottom line

This paper does not resolve the question of whether passive smoking is a risk factor for breast cancer; the relationship is complex and may involve the age at which women are first exposed to cigarette smoke.

Reference

SA Khuder & VJ Simon. Is there an association between passive smoking and breast cancer? European Journal of Epidemiology 2000 16: 1117-1121.

Search

The literature was searched using MEDLINE (1966 to 2000) and Cancer Abstracts (1980 to 2000). Abstracts presented at conferences were also examined. Eleven studies were identified, published between 1984 and 2000. Three were cohort studies, with a total of 398,158 participants and 922 breast cancer cases. Eight studies were case-control, with 2,750 cases (range 32 to 864) and 3,958 controls (range 99 to 790). Six studies (five case-control, one cohort) adjusted for several breast cancer risk factors (e.g. age, parity, age at first live birth, history of breast cancer).

Results

An association was observed between ever exposure to passive smoking and risk of breast cancer (relative risk 1.41, 95% confidence interval 1.14 to 1.75).

Comment

Although an association was found between passive smoking and risk of breast cancer, the following prevent a straightforward interpretation of this result.

This paper does not resolve the controversy of whether passive smoking increases the risk of breast cancer. One explanation to resolve the conflicting results concerns the age at which women are first exposed to smoking. It has been suggested that a woman’s risk of breast cancer is increased by exposure to cigarette smoke during childhood and adolescence, as these are the times of rapid breast tissue development. Exposure to cigarette smoke during childhood and teenage years clearly merits further investigation; smoking in the presence of children, as well as the smoking habits of teenage girls themselves, could be of even greater concern.