Electronic Cigarettes and Breast Cancer

Lab study spun to show alarming results, but study of 63,000 women suggests no risk

I noticed a rather alarming article the other day suggesting that nicotine can cause breast cancer.

We already know that in labatory conditions nicotine can accelerate the growth of cancer. (As we saw in our recent article on nicotine on the smokers’ angel, it can also accelerate the recovery of muscles after an accident and of the brain after brain damage.)

However, there is a big difference between accelerating the growth of cancerous cells in a labatory and actually causing cells to become cancerous. In addition, the data we have on snus suggests that when nicotine is obtained without combustion the danger of developing cancer drops to almost nil. According to Dr Nitzkin:

the literature on snus, which is evaluated on our website, basically shows that in the best of the epidemiological studies available today snus do not increase any cause of death. In other words, if there is a health hazard from snus it is smaller than can be measured with these studies.

The current article seems to suggest something different:

The substance that makes cigarettes addictive may also cause the growth of cancer tumours, scientists revealed today.

It is the first time nicotine has been implicated as one of the chemicals in cigarettes that can trigger the development of breast cancer.

Source: Daily Mail

It is something that worried me, and I immediately contacted TheTobaccoHarmReduction website to get a scientist’s take on it.

I don’t think I was the only one worried, because Professor Carl Phillips has published an analysis on the harm reduction blog entitled Hyping of a Non-Result about Nicotine, writing:

It is also possible that nicotine promotes actual cancer growth in people, but it is clear from decades of research on smoke-free nicotine users that if it does, it is sufficiently rare that it is impossible to detect.  Indeed, the link between smoking and breast cancer is among the weakest for any cancer among older adults.

In essence, the study did not find anything new, and the dramatic headlines are the results of editors spinning the results of the study to creat maximum impact.

Those still worried should be reassured by the results of an additional study (mentioned in the comments section of Carl Phillip’s blog post).

The study, according to Reuters article Smoking not tied to risk of early breast tumour, followed 63,000 post menepausal women.

The conclusion?

That smokers and ex-smokers were no more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer than non-smokers.

(If you wish to switch to e-cigarettes and are still worried about nicotine, remember you can always switch to the zero nicotine electronic cigarette!)

2 thoughts on “Electronic Cigarettes and Breast Cancer

  1. OK, whatever they say. I’m a guy in my mid-60s, married or heavily involved most of my life, and I’ve seen reports of breast cancer linked to practically everything except celery. My personal view has come to be that breast cancer is principally linked to being female, and that therefore everyone in that group should be alert for signs and get regular tests.

    One problem with “nicotine” studies is that the overwhelming number of nicotine addicts (e.g. me) are smokers, moreover cigarette smokers, and cigs contain not only nicotine but a humongous number of other substances of varying degrees of absorbability and toxicity. It’s difficult to get a real “control” group — imagine trying to find people who regularly took in all the smoke stuff *without* the nicotine.

    Snuff (nasal or oral) and chewing tobacco are almost exclusively male habits; even Mammy Yokum smokes her tobacco. For what it may be worth, the traditional Swedish product snuss, an oral tobacco product similar to American snuff packets but cured by a process which does not produce the nitrosamines common in American tobacco, has been found by repeated Swedish medical studies to have no effect at all on health. Snuss is as close to a “pure play” on nicotine as you can get, and American snuff users do in fact have a greater risk of cancers involving the mouth. (So do cigar smokers; look at the history of Dr. Freud.) So it appears from this evidence that it’s not the nicotine per se but the *other stuff*. But snuss is also mostly a male habit.

    So my advice would be to quit smoking, substituting whatever behavior works. I recommend chewing your husband’s ear, but if that’s impractical, ecigs seem to be successful in many cases. But then, no woman in her right mind — daughter, wife, or friend — has ever taken my advice…

  2. Sorry for not replying before – for some reason I missed this insightful comment. I think you are spot on with the problem of research into nicotine, i.e. that it is difficult to get a control group which aren’t smokers. One exception is smokeless tobacco, and we do have years of data which suggests that safest type, snus, does not increase any risk of death at all, which backs up assertions that the problem with smoking is combustion rather than tobacco or nicotine.

    As for not taking my advice, I have the same problem. Have you tried advising them to do the opposite of what you want them to do? I find that works a treat.

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