New research shows that that a common treatment for breast cancer works less well in patients who smoke when compared to non-smokers.
“Smokers who were treated with aromatase inhibitors had a three times higher risk of recurrence of breast cancer compared with the non-smokers who got the same treatment. The study also showed that the smokers also had an increased risk of dying, either from the breast cancer or from other illnesses, during the time we followed them,” says Helena Jernström, associate professor and researcher who, together with trainee physician Mia Persson, is the principal investigator behind the study published in the British Journal of Cancer.
The researchers followed 1,016 patients in southern Sweden who were diagnosed with breast cancer between 2002 and 2012. At the time when they were booked in for surgery, they were asked whether they were smokers or non-smokers. Approximately one in five women stated that she was either a regular smoker or a “social smoker.” The impacts of smoking were analysed depending on what type of breast cancer treatment the patients received after their surgeries.
What the study shows most clearly is that women over the age of 50, treated with aromatase inhibitors, are affected by smoking. This treatment against breast cancer prevents the body from generating oestrogen in fatty tissue and thereby reduces the risk of recurrence in women with oestrogen-receptive positive breast cancer.