Accumulating evidence on passive and active smoking and breast cancer risk

Int J Cancer. 2005 Nov 20;117(4):619-28. doi: 10.1002/ijc.21150.


The aim of the study was to examine the risk of breast cancer associated with passive and active smoking and to explore risk heterogeneity among studies. Nineteen of 20 located published studies of passive smoking and breast cancer risk among women met basic quality criteria. Pooled relative risk estimates for breast cancer were calculated for 1) life-long non-smokers with regular passive exposure to tobacco smoke and 2) women who smoked. They were compared to women categorized as never regularly exposed to tobacco smoke. The pooled risk estimate for breast cancer associated with passive smoking among life-long non-smokers was 1.27 (95% confidence interval (CI), 1.11-1.45). In the subset of 5 studies (all case-control studies) with more complete exposure assessment (quantitative long-term information on the 3 major sources of passive smoke exposure: childhood, adult residential and occupational), the pooled risk estimate for exposed non-smokers was 1.90 (95%CI, 1.53-2.37). For the 14 studies with less complete passive exposure measures the risk was 1.08 (95%CI, 0.99-1.19) overall, 1.16 for 7 case-control and 1.06 for 7 cohort studies, although dose-response results in 3 of 4 Asian cohort studies suggested increased risk. The overall premenopausal breast cancer risk associated with passive smoking among life-long non-smokers was 1.68 (95%CI 1.33-2.12), and 2.19 (95% CI 1.68-2.84) for the 5 of 14 studies with more complete exposure assessment. For women who had smoked the breast cancer risk estimate was 1.46 (95%CI 1.15-1.85) when compared to women with neither active nor regular passive smoke exposure; 2.08 (95% CI 1.44-3.01) for more complete and 1.15 (95% CI 0.92-1.43) for less complete passive exposure assessment. Studies with thorough passive smoking exposure assessment implicate passive and active smoking as risk factors for premenopausal breast cancer. Cohort studies with thorough passive smoking assessment would be helpful and studies exploring biological mechanisms are needed to explain the unexpected similarity of the passive and active risks.

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Risk Factors
  • Smoking / adverse effects*
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution / adverse effects*


  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution