September 3, 2014
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Study: Smoking and breast and kidney cancer

The link between lighting up and a number of cancers, including lung, mouth, and throat cancer, has long been established. But some studies indicate a link between smoking and breast cancer in some women and smoking and kidney cancer in men and women.

A team of researchers reviewed 24 studies dating as far back as the 1960s, and determined that smokers (and even former smokers) on average faced a 38% greater risk of developing kidney cancer than people who had never smoked. But exactly how great that risk is depends on whether you're a man or woman, how much you smoke and, if you've already quit, how long it's been since you butted out.

For male smokers, the risk of developing kidney cancer was 54% higher than for people who had never smoked, while for female smokers it was 22% higher, according to the study, which was published in the International Journal of Cancer.

And the more people smoked, the more their risk went up. For example, men who smoked fewer than 10 cigarettes per day had a 60% higher risk, while men who smoked more than 21 cigarettes per day, equivalent to nearly a pack a day or more, had more than 100% greater risk. For women who were heavy smokers, the risk was 58% higher than for people who had never smoked.

But just because the study found an increased risk in former smokers compared to people who had never smoked, it doesn't mean there's no benefit to quitting - and quitting now. Researchers found a greater reduction in kidney cancer risk among people who stopped smoking more than 10 years ago than among people who stomped out the habit within the last 1 to 10 years.

Meanwhile, a study out of Japan, which also appeared in the International Journal of Cancer, suggests that cigarette smoke, whether first or secondhand, is associated with an increased risk of breast cancer in premenopausal women.

Investigators at the National Cancer Centre in Tokyo, Japan, included nearly 22,000 women between the ages of 40 and 59 in their research, and found that premenopausal women who smoke or used to smoke had nearly three times the risk of developing breast cancer. Premenopausal women who had never smoked but who were exposed to secondhand smoke had almost the same increase – 2.6 times the risk – compared to women who never smoked. But an increased risk of breast cancer was not found among postmenopausal women who smoke, who used to smoke or who were exposed to secondhand smoke.

These studies underscore the importance of quitting smoking. So if you light up, talk to your doctor about strategies for butting out, including medication, support groups, and counseling.


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