Cigarette smoking increases risk for breast cancer in high-risk breast cancer families

F. J. Couch, J. R. Cerhan, R. A. Vierkant, D. M. Grabrick, T. M. Therneau, V. S. Pankratz, L. C. Hartmann, J. E. Olson, C. M. Vachon, T. A. Sellers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


Most epidemiological studies of cigarette smoking and breast cancer have failed to demonstrate a strong association. Only one study has been performed on women at high genetic risk, and smoking was reported to be a protective factor. To further explore this observation, we examined the association of cigarette smoking with the risk of breast cancer in a historical cohort study of high-risk breast cancer families. A total of 426 families ascertained through a consecutive series of breast cancer patients (probands) between 1944 and 1952 were followed through 1996. Occurrence of breast cancer and detailed smoking histories for sisters, daughters, granddaughters, nieces, and marry-ins were obtained through telephone interviews between 1991 and 1996. Cox proportional hazards regression, accounting for age, birth cohort, and other risk factors, was used to calculate relative risks and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) of breast cancer. All of the models were constructed within strata defined by relationship to the index case (proband), with nonsmokers designated as the referent group. Of the 426 families in the cohort, 132 had at least three incident breast and/or ovarian cancers in the biological relatives at the end of the follow-up period. Among sisters and daughters in these 132 high-risk families, those who ever smoked were at 2.4-fold increased risk of breast cancer (95% CI, 1.2-5.1) relative to never-smokers. No association between breast cancer and smoking was observed among nieces and granddaughters of probands or among marry-ins. When the analysis was restricted to 35 families at highest genetic risk (each containing five breast and/or ovarian cancers), smoking became an even stronger risk factor. Among sisters and daughters, ever-smokers were at 5.8-fold greater risk than nonsmokers (95% CI, 1.4-23.9). Among nieces and granddaughters, the risk of breast cancer associated with smoking was increased 60% (95% CI, 0.8-3.2). These results suggest that smoking may increase risk for breast cancer in families with multiple cases of breast or ovarian cancer, especially those with the strongest apparent familial predisposition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)327-332
Number of pages6
JournalCancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Oncology


Dive into the research topics of 'Cigarette smoking increases risk for breast cancer in high-risk breast cancer families'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this