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Is Smoking An Important Cause Of Breast Cancer In IndiaBACK

Rohan Khandelwal, MS, MRCS (Edin.), FIBD

The last two decades has seen a dramatic shift in the smoking rates amongst Indian men & women. Smoking rates have fallen among Indian men but they have risen among women.

In a recent study published earlier this year in the British Medical Journal and which was earlier carried by the The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), they examined the prevalence of smoking in 187 countries between 1980 and 2012 and found that while cigarette smoking among Indian men has fallen from 33.8 per cent in 1980 to 23 per cent in 2012, it has risen from three per cent to 3.2 per cent among Indian women within the same time frame.

Smoking has been associated with various cancers but there was some discrepancy regarding it's association with breast cancer. But in a recent study, researchers at the American Cancer Society have found an increased breast cancer risk among women who smoke, especially those who start before they have their first child.

In a new study, published online February 28, 2013 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, researchers analyzed data from 73,388 women in the American Cancer Society's Cancer Prevention Study II (CPS-II). During more than 13 years of follow-up, researchers counted 3,721 cases of invasive breast cancer. The rate of new cases was 24% higher in smokers than in nonsmokers and 13% higher in former smokers than in nonsmokers.

The risk of invasive breast cancer was highest in women who began smoking at an earlier age. When compared to women who never smoked, those who started smoking before their first menstrual cycle had a 61% higher risk of breast cancer.

These studies highlight two important points:

  1. A clear association between smoking and breast cancer
  2. Increasing incidence of smoking among Indian women.

This increasing incidence could certainly be one of the contributing factors leading to a high incidence of breast cancer among urban Indian women.Another factor which has to be considered is passive smoking which has not be studied in any trials.

During this Breast Cancer Awareness month, in addition to spreading awareness about breast cancer, we should also educate Indian women regarding the ill effects of smoking and it's association with Breast cancer.

About the Author:

Dr. Rohan Khandelwal is a Fellowhsip Trained Breast Surgeon, who specializes in the management of benign & cancerous lesions of the Breast. He has extensive experience in Onco-plastic Breast Surgeries and Breast Reconstructions as well.