Smoking and Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death in women; only lung cancer kills more women in the United States than breast cancer.

There is a well-known connection between breast cancer and smoking. Women who smoke have a 33% lower chance of survival at the time of diagnosis.

Young women who smoke are more likely to develop breast cancer. So are older women who are exposed to second-hand smoke.

Smoking causes other problems for breast cancer patients, too, beyond the correlations between smoking and breast cancer incidence or death.

For example, smokers may have more damage to the lungs from radiation therapy. They may find it harder to recover from surgery. They have a higher chance of blood clots.

Nicotine and breast cancer

New research at Wake Forest School of Medicine has now found that nicotine encourages breast cancer to spread to the lungs. 

Nicotine is just one of the chemicals people are exposed to through smoking or vaping, but it may be the most familiar.

Previous studies had found that nicotine use was associated with more aggressive breast cancers. Breast cancers among nicotine users were more likely to spread.

Nicotine was also found to increase resistance to cancer treatments.

The new research shows that nicotine can make the lungs more susceptible to cancer, even as it leads to more aggressive breast cancers and makes treatments less effective. 

Another reason to stop smoking

If you have not started smoking or vaping, you should not do so. If you currently smoke or vape, you should stop.

The Wake Forest research also suggests that smokers should try to quit without nicotine therapies or vaping. 

Smoking is also strongly linked to lung cancer, apart from its role in breast cancer.

Talk with your physician about ways to quit smoking. Contact the Breast Center with any questions about breast cancer.