Smoking makes you fat and it can also contribute to your getting breast cancer, IF you have the gene for the disease. Most smokers want to quit, and we have new information about what HELPS.

Researchers Christine Ambrosone and Jenny Chang-Claude studied data from 10 of the 13 studies published in the last 10 years in which they evaluated genetic information, smoking habits and breast cancer risk in almost 5,000 premenopausal and over 7,000 postmenopausal women. They found a significant interaction between breast cancer risk, smoking, and a specific gene called the NAT2. Women who smoked the most years, consumed the highest number of cigarettes per day and had a specific form of NAT2 were at significantly increased risk of breast cancer.

Dr. Ambrosone says, “These results, analyzing all studies to date, indicate that subgroups of women defined by genetic predisposition are at higher risk of breast cancer if they are exposed to tobacco smoke. In fact, smoking is likely to play an important role in the development of breast cancer for about 50-60% of the populations from European descent who have that form of the NAT2 gene.”

Since you don’t know which gene you have, the best thing to do is quit now! Why is this so hard? It’s because tobacco stimulates the same part of the brain as hard drugs, such as heroin. Researcher Daniel McGehee says, “Testing rat brain tissue, we found remarkable overlap between the effects of nicotine and opiates on dopamine signaling within the brain?s reward centers?[Our research] demonstrates the seriousness of tobacco addiction, equating its grip on the individual to that of heroin. It reinforces the fact that these addictions are very physiological in nature and that breaking away from the habit is certainly more than just mind over matter.”

Physically active smokers might have greater success quitting smoking than those who are more sedentary. When researchers studied nearly 23,000 Canadian smokers, they found that physically active men were 36% more likely to have tried to quit smoking within the past year and women were 37% more likely to do so. Researcher Wayne deRuiter says, “Previous studies have suggested that participating in one healthy behavior, such as physical activity, may lead to the adoption or maintenance of another positive behavior, such as smoking cessation.” And women who quit smoking significantly reduce their risk of death from coronary heart disease within 5 years and have about a 20% lower risk of death from smoking-related cancers within that time period.

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