, Volume 109, Issue 1, pp 67-75

Smoking and risk of breast cancer in carriers of mutations in BRCA1 or BRCA2 aged less than 50 years

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Cigarette smoke contains compounds that may damage DNA, and the repair of damage may be impaired in women with germline mutations in BRCA1 or BRCA2. However, the effect of cigarette smoking on breast cancer risk in mutation carriers is the subject of conflicting reports. We have examined the relation between smoking and breast cancer risk in non-Hispanic white women under the age of 50 years who carry a deleterious mutation in BRCA1 or BRCA2.


We conducted a case-control study using data from carriers of mutations in BRCA1 (195 cases and 302 controls) and BRCA2 (128 cases and 179 controls). Personal information, including smoking history, was collected using a common structured questionnaire by eight recruitment sites in four countries. Odds-ratios (OR) for breast cancer risk according to smoking were adjusted for age, family history, parity, alcohol use, and recruitment site.


Compared to non-smokers, the OR for risk of breast cancer for women with five or more pack-years of smoking was 2.3 (95% confidence interval 1.6–3.5) for BRCA1 carriers and 2.6 (1.8–3.9) for BRCA2 carriers. Risk increased 7% per pack-year (p < 0.001) in both groups.


These results indicate that smoking is associated with increased risk of breast cancer before age 50 years in BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutation carriers. If confirmed, they provide a practical way for carriers to reduce their risks. Previous studies in prevalent mutation carriers have not shown smoking to increase risk of breast cancer, but are subject to bias, because smoking decreases survival after breast cancer.

Northern California Family Registry for Breast Cancer: AS Whittemore, Stanford University School of Medicine, EM John, Northern California Cancer Center, A Felberg, Stanford University School of Medicine, V McGuire, Stanford University School of Medicine, DW West, Northern California Cancer Center, A Miron, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard Medical School, DC Thomas, USC Keck School of Medicine, R Haile, USC Keck School of Medicine and Norris Comprehensive Cancer. Fox Chase Familial Breast Cancer Registry: M Daly, Fox Chase Cancer Center, A Godwin, Fox Chase Cancer Center, E Ross, Fox Chase Cancer Center. Coriell Institute: J Beck. New York Familial Breast Cancer Registry: MB Terry, Joseph L. Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University. Utah Breast Cancer Family Registry: SS Buys, Huntsman Cancer Institute, V Venne, Huntsman Cancer Institute. Australian Breast Cancer Family Study: JL Hopper, The University of Melbourne, GG Giles, The Cancer Council Victoria, MRE McCredie, University of Otago, New Zealand, RL Milne, Spanish National Cancer Centre, MC Southey, The University of Melbourne, MA Jenkins, The University of Melbourne, C Apicella, The University of Melbourne. Kathleen Cuningham Consortium for Research into Familial Breast Cancer (kConFab), Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre. Ontario Familial Breast Cancer Registry: I Andrulis, Cancer Care Ontario, Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute, Mount Sinai Hospital, NF Boyd, Ontario Cancer Institute, J Knight, Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute, Mount Sinai Hospital, H Ozcelik, Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute, Mount Sinai Hospital. Correspondence to: Dr NF Boyd, Campbell Family Institute for Breast Cancer Research, Room 10-415, Ontario Cancer Institute, 610 University Ave., Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5G 2M9. Boyd@uhnres.utoronto.ca