Being around people who are smoking, even as little as one hour a day, can almost triple a woman's risk of contracting breast cancer, the second leading cause of deaths among all American women, and the leading cause of death among middle-aged women.

This is the finding of a new study Dr. Alfredo Morabia recently published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

Morabia headed a team of researchers from the University Hospital in Geneva, Switzerland, that analyzed the smoking habits and exposure of nearly 1300 women. Among their findings:

  • Just smoking fewer than 10 cigarettes a day was enough to double a woman's risk of breast cancer.

  • Smoking 10 to 19 cigarettes a day saw the risk jump almost five fold.

  • Women who were exposed to cigarette smoke for one hour per day for 12 consecutive months nearly tripled their risk of contracting this deadly disease.

    More women die of breast cancer than from any other cancer. It is now the second leading cause of death in American women.

    Last year doctors diagnosed cancer of the breast in 182,000 women, and 46,000 died from it. It kills more middle-age women than any other disease. Every fifteen minutes at least three women will develop breast cancer and one will die.

    But it wasn't always this way. Just 50 years ago barely one out of every 28 women got breast cancer. Today the rate has skyrocketed to one in 8! What has changed?

    Obviously one of the most important changes in women's lives has been the tremendous increase in smoking by American women.

    Another has been the widespread exposure of nonsmoking women to tobacco smoke as more and more Americans smoked, and as women far more frequently worked outside the home in workplaces where smoking was permitted.

    Modern women are also far more likely to go to stores, restaurants, and other places of business where they were exposed to smoke, even to drifting smoke in no-smoking sections.

    Based upon this study, ASH advises that women should be especially careful to avoid any situation in which they are exposed to tobacco smoke. This is particularly true for women who have a higher-than-normal risk of contracting breast cancer. These include:

    Women who are overweight, especially if they're over age 50.

    Women who start their menstrual period before they are 12 or stop menstruation after age 55.

    Women who have a close blood relative such as a mother or sister who died of the disease.

    Women who never have children or who have their first pregnancy after age 20.

    Women who never breast feed their children.

    Women who have only one child.

    Women who never exercise.



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