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While the evidence has not been conclusive, there is growing research linking tobacco use to an increased risk of breast cancer (whether a woman actively smokes or inhales second-hand smoke). However, exposure to tobacco may affect breast tissue differently depending on what stage of development the tissue is in.

Current research suggests that women who begin smoking in adolescence and before carrying a full-term pregnancy may be particularly vulnerable to the effects of tobacco smoke on breast cancer risk. Adolescence is a period of rapid development for the breasts, so the breast tissue may be more susceptible to cancer-causing agents. Full development of the breast tissue takes place after a first full-term pregnancy, when hormones cause breast tissue to mature in a way that seems to protect against the effects of some cancer-causing agents.

Current smokers can improve their health by quitting. In general, the longer you don't smoke the more you lower your risk of cancer.

Want to learn more about how tobacco impacts breast cancer risk in young girls?
Check out the START Project for research on this topic and examples of messages developed for young girs on modifiable risk factors for breast cancer.

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