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Active, but not passive cigarette smoking was inversely associated with mammographic density

PURPOSE: The opposing carcinogenic and antiestrogenic properties of tobacco smoke may explain why epidemiologic studies have not consistently reported positive associations for active smoking and breast cancer risk. A negative relation between mammographic density, a strong breast cancer risk factor, and active smoking would lend support for an antiestrogenic mechanism. METHODS: We used multivariable linear regression to assess the associations of active smoking and secondhand smoke (SHS) exposure with mammographic density in 799 pre- and early perimenopausal women in the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation (SWAN). RESULTS: We observed that current active smoking was associated with 7.2% lower mammographic density, compared to never active smoking and no SHS exposure (p = 0.02). Starting to smoke before 18 years of age and having smoked > or =20 cigarettes/day were also associated with statistically significantly lower percent densities. Among nulliparous women having smoked > or =20 cigarettes/day was associated with 23.8% lower density, compared to having smoked < or = 9 cigarettes/day (p<0.001). CONCLUSIONS: Our findings support the hypothesis that tobacco smoke exerts an antiestrogenic effect on breast tissue, but counters the known increased risk of breast cancer with smoking prior to first full-term birth. Thus, our data suggest that the antiestrogenic but not the carcinogenic effects of smoking may be reflected by breast density.

Authors: Butler LM; Gold EB; Conroy SM; Crandall CJ; Greendale GA; Oestreicher N; Quesenberry CP Jr; Habel LA

Cancer Causes Control. 2010 Feb;21(2):301-11.

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