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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    “Breast cancer, smoking link argued”

    Physiology freshman Britni Mollihan and Eric Ferguson, a junior majoring in English, sit outside Arizona-Sonora Residence Hall while Mollihan enjoys a cigarette.
    Physiology freshman Britni Mollihan and Eric Ferguson, a junior majoring in English, sit outside Arizona-Sonora Residence Hall while Mollihan enjoys a cigarette.

    A California study shows a correlation between breast cancer and secondhand smoke, but UA health officials said more research needs to be done before women should be concerned.

    California’s Air Resources Board approved a California Environmental Protection Agency report in January that concluded that secondhand smoke causes an average 68 percent increase in risk of breast cancer for women younger than 50, and that some women who have not reached menopause may have as much as a 120 percent higher risk.

    Although the findings of the study support the connection between breast cancer and secondhand smoke, Campus Health Service and the Arizona Cancer Center don’t think women should be worried about the results.

    Arizona Cancer Center deputy director for strategic partnership and policy Scott Leischow said not all members of the health community, including the National Cancer

    Institute and International Agency for Research on Cancer, agree with the CalEPA’s findings.

    “”The question is, is this a real relationship or not?”” Leischow said. “”It doesn’t mean that the CalEPA is wrong, but we need to do more research.””

    Leischow said the study’s findings should not affect the way women go about caring for their health, but it does serve as a reminder of the negative affects of direct and secondhand smoking.

    “”This study should not affect how or when women get their breast exams,”” Leischow said. “”It’s just another reminder of the many potential relationships that exist between secondhand smoke and cancer.””

    Alberta Hopkins, a Campus Health Women’s Health triage nurse, said women who have a family history of breast cancer are encouraged to have breast examinations at their annual check-ups, though any woman who is concerned about her health is welcome to come to Campus Health.

    Hopkins said birth control containing estrogen is usually safe, but there is some evidence of a possible link between estrogen-containing birth control and higher instances of breast cancer. For this reason, Hopkins said, Women’s Health can provide alternative forms of birth control to women who have a strong history of breast cancer in their family.

    Hopkins said Women’s Health has seen a few instances of young patients with breast cancer, though young women only need to be mindful, not paranoid, about the possibility of getting breast cancer at a young age.

    “”I would say (instances of breast cancer in younger patients are) rare, but you have to remember we see people of all ages (at Campus Health),”” Hopkins said. “”We’ve had graduate students in their 80s come in, but we have had several breast cancer situations in younger women.””

    Ilya Sloan, Arizona Cancer Center coordinator of communications and volunteer services, said college-aged women usually would not need to consider getting a mammogram.

    “”The standard is that women have their first mammogram at 40,”” Sloan said.

    However, Sloan said there are exceptions to the rule, and the women with instances of breast cancer in their direct genetic line, who tested positive for genes strongly linked with breast cancer, or who have undergone radiation might have their first mammogram at 30 or earlier.

    Hopkins said women should never think that it’s impossible for them to get any type of cancer, although most young women can take care of themselves by performing their own monthly breast exams and getting examined by medical providers at annual examinations.

    “”Every time we get a younger woman with breast cancer, it is always a reminder that we can never assume that a person can’t have (the disease),”” Hopkins said.

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