Health Discoveries in Breast Cancer

Breast cancer risk increases with secondhand smoke exposure

December 31, 2009
The risk of breast cancer appears to increase when women are exposed to secondhand smoke in great quantity over long periods of time, even if they never smoked cigarettes themselves, a long-term California study has found.

Researchers at the Northern California Cancer Center surveyed more than 57,000 women in the California Teachers Study, and followed them for 10 years. The participants had no history of breast cancer and had never smoked, but they had been exposed to secondhand smoke over long periods.

Since completing the survey, a total of 1,754 women were diagnosed with invasive breast cancer. Risk factors were believed to be smoke exposure during adulthood, mostly for women who were postmenopausal. The cancer risk increased as the cumulative exposure levels increased, said senior research scientist Peggy Reynolds.

The results of the study are in the December issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.

At the North Shore-LIJ Health System, Dr. Harry Raftopoulos, an expert on cancer in non-smokers, is participating in a national clinical trial focusing on a drug developed by the pharmaceutical company Pfizer "that has shown dramatic shrinkage of cancers." Raftopoulos said the drug targets the mutated ALK (anaplastic lymphoma kinase) gene, which generally is found in non-smokers.ADNFCR-2730-ID-19534853-ADNFCR
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