Secondhand Smoke Might Cause Breast Cancer, Report Finds
Secondhand cigarette smoke might cause breast cancer, according to a new report released by scientists at the California Air Resources Board, USA Today reports (Ritter , USA Today, 3/9). According to the study, women exposed to secondhand smoke have a 26% to 90% higher risk for breast cancer, based on the length of time of their exposure (Ritter , USA Today, 3/9).
The 1,200-page report also said that secondhand smoke kills as many as 73,400 U.S. residents annually. However, the report did not estimate the number of new breast cancer cases caused annually by secondhand smoke and did not determine risk for the disease based on doses of secondhand smoke. For the report, researchers examined human studies of the effects of long-term exposure to secondhand smoke that they considered accurate (Ritter , USA Today, 3/9). In addition, researchers placed more emphasis on toxicology evidence from animal studies than previous reports released by the U.S. surgeon general and the International Agency on Research on Cancer (Ritter , USA Today, 3/9).
A scientific review committee as early as Monday likely will approve the report and forward the report to ARB, which has authority to regulate air pollution in the state, for consideration. According to USA Today, the report, which "challenges conventional scientific thinking" about secondhand smoke and breast cancer, could have a "broad impact on cancer research" and "fuel workplace smoking bans in more states."
Terry Pechacek, associate director for science in the CDC office on smoking and health, said of the new report, "I have to say without reservation it will stimulate continued and accelerated scientific evaluation of the smoking and breast cancer issue." Tobacco companies, in public comments filed with ARB, said that the report did not examine human studies that found no link between secondhand smoke and breast cancer (Ritter , USA Today, 3/9).
According to USA Today, whether the "California breast cancer findings ... influence a surgeon general's report on secondhand smoke due this year is uncertain." Barbara Brenner, executive director of Breast Cancer Action, said, "I'd be very surprised to see that change," adding, "There's more caution in the scientific community than is necessary in the interest of the public's health. What science understands as proof is almost an ever-retreating goal" (Ritter , USA Today, 3/9).
CBS' "Evening News" on Wednesday reported on the study. The segment includes comments from Brenner and Dr. Michael Thun, director of epidemiology at the American Cancer Society (Kaledin, "Evening News," CBS, 3/9). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer. In addition, CNN's "NewsNight with Aaron Brown" on Wednesday reported on the study. The segment includes comments from Dr. Susan Love, author of "Dr. Susan Love's Breast Book," and Dr. Jonathan Samet, chair of the Department of Epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health (Gupta, "NewsNight with Aaron Brown," CNN, 3/9). The complete transcript is available online.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.