What is the Link Between Smoking and Breast Cancer?

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  • Written By: G. Wiesen
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 06 October 2019
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The possible link between smoking and breast cancer is a strongly debated and controversial topic, but as of early 2011 there was no definitive evidence demonstrating a connection between smoking and breast cancer. While smoking has been shown to increase the chances of other types of cancer, especially mouth and lung cancer, there is little evidence to show an increased chance of developing breast cancer due to smoking. There is some evidence, however, that indicates a possible connection between smoking and breast cancer specifically related to the inhalation of secondhand smoke.

A great deal of research and study has gone into looking for any connections between smoking and breast cancer, in order to better understand how cancer is caused. As of early 2011, there is no definite proof that shows a connection between smoking and breast cancer, though this has caused controversy among some medical professionals. While there are a number of clearly evident health risks involved with smoking products with nicotine, research has not shown that an increased risk of developing breast cancer is one of them.


One interesting finding regarding a possible connection between smoking and breast cancer is evidence that may indicate an increased risk of breast cancer due to exposure to secondhand smoke. There is evidence that indicates that toxins in cigarette smoke pass into the mammary cells of a woman, based on finding chemicals present in cigarette smoke in breast milk. Research has also found that chemicals in cigarette smoke can cause breast cancer in some test animals.

While this evidence does not directly connect smoking and breast cancer for humans, there does seem to be an increased risk due to exposure to secondhand smoke. This is still being researched, though it seems that a person’s body absorbs and deals with toxins found in cigarette smoke differently depending on whether a person directly inhales the smoke from a cigarette or breathes it in secondhand. Research on this connection, and any possible causality involved, continues but people should generally avoid secondhand smoke whenever possible.

There are a number of other activities and uncontrollable factors that can increase the chances of developing breast cancer, even if smoking does not necessarily do so. Genetics is one of the major factors in breast cancer development, and the risk of developing breast cancer is greatly increased in women with a close relative who has had breast cancer. Growing older also tends to increase the chances of a person, usually a woman, developing breast cancer and frequent screenings for breast cancer are suggested for women as they age.


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