TUESDAY, March 1 (HealthDay News) -- Both smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke appear to increase the risk for breast cancer among postmenopausal women, new research shows.
Although earlier studies had found little or no connection between breast cancer and smoking, as more women smokers reach menopause the connection may be surfacing for the first time, experts noted.
"The findings are important because smoking was not previously thought to increase the risk of breast cancer, but this study adds to the increasing evidence that it does," said lead researcher Dr. Karen Margolis, a senior clinical investigator at HealthPartners Research Foundation in Minneapolis.
However, Susan Gapstur, vice president of epidemiology for the American Cancer Society, said earlier research had shown some connection between smoking and breast cancer.
"When you put together the body of work in the last few years, it calls for more studies," she said. "This study has answered that call."
"This certainly adds to the evidence that long-term smoking increases the risk for breast cancer," Gapstur said. "On the on the flip side, it appears that 20 years after stopping the risk goes down to that of an average individual. I think that's good news."
Many risk factors for breast cancer cannot be changed, such as age, genetics and family history of the disease, Margolis noted.
"Now smoking can be added to the list of things that can lower breast cancer risk that already include having children, breast-feeding, keeping alcohol consumption low, avoiding weight gain, being physically active and avoiding hormone therapy with estrogen plus progestin," she said.
The report is published in the March 1 online edition of the BMJ.
For the study, Margolis's group collected data on 79,990 women aged 50 to 79 who took part in the Women's Health Initiative study. Over 10 year
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