Cigarette smoking and breast cancer risk: A long latency period?

Paul D. Terry, Anthony B. Miller, Thomas E. Rohan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Scopus citations


The association between cigarette smoking and breast cancer risk remains unclear. Few studies have examined cigarette smoking of very long duration as there may not have been a sufficient number of long-term smokers in studies conducted before the 1980s. Therefore, we examined the association between smoking and breast cancer risk using data from participants in a randomized controlled trial of screening for breast cancer involving 89,835 women aged 40-59 years at recruitment and with up to 40 years of smoking duration at that time. Women with breast cancer diagnosed through 31 December 1993 were identified by linkage to the Canadian Cancer Database. Cox proportional hazards models were used to estimate rate ratios (RRs) and 95% confidence intervals (Cls). During an average of 10.6 years of follow-up, we observed 2,552 incident cases of breast cancer. We found a positive association between cigarette smoking and breast cancer risk, driven mainly by women who had smoked for several decades and who, therefore, had commenced smoking many years earlier. Relative to never-smokers, women who had smoked 40 years or more and 20 cigarettes/day or more were at the highest risk (RR = 1.83, 95% Cl 1.29-2.61); for women who had commenced smoking 40 years or more before assessment (a measure of smoking latency rather than duration and intensity), the RR was 1.22 (95% Cl 0.99-1.59). Our findings suggest that smoking of very long duration and high intensity may be associated with increased risk of breast cancer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)723-728
Number of pages6
JournalInternational Journal of Cancer
Issue number6
StatePublished - Aug 20 2002


  • Breast neoplasm
  • Cohort study
  • Menopause
  • Smoking
  • Women

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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