Tuesday, January 27, 2009

No Smoking

Yesterday as I was walking to get my lunch, I saw a group of teenagers smoking. Here in Seattle, smoking is probably less prevalent than other places and maybe having grown up here I am less tolerant about it. It makes me sad and angry to see it.

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I had to take a good look at what my risk factors were and found that I really didn't have many. I did not start menstruating early, I don't have any family history, I have never smoked, I have since found out that I do not carry the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene, I am not obese and though I had my children a little later (32 and 33), it doesn't increase my risk significantly. So with very few risk factors (can't change the fact that I am female for instance), I still was one of the unfortunate ones to be diagnosed with cancer.

Having cancer is not fun in any way, shape or form. It is not fun to go through chemo or radiation, surgery or hair loss, not to mention the emotional turmoil and the possibility of death. It is miserable and I want to shout it at the people that I see smoking. "WHAT ARE YOU THINKING??!!!!"

We all have a certain amount of risk factors, some we can change and some we can't. But smoking is a KNOWN cause of cancer. Not suspected; known. You smoke, you get cancer.

A few things I found on smoking and risk:

"Among male cigarette smokers, the risk of lung cancer is more than 2,000 percent higher than among male nonsmokers; for women, the risks were approximately 1,200 percent greater. Lung cancer is the single largest cause of cancer mortality among both men and women and accounts for more than one in every four cancer deaths nationally in the U.S."

"In all, it is estimated that cigarette smoking causes approximately 23 percent of all cancer deaths in women, and is responsible for 42 percent of all male cancer deaths (Shopland et al., 1991)"

Specific to breast cancer risk, teens who smoke are more likely to develop breast cancer before menopause and are more likely to be diagnosed with aggressive, hormone receptor-negative type breast cancer.

Every time I see a teenager smoking and am with my children, I tell them again that they will NEVER smoke. I will not allow it. I will not tell my girls that they can try it, that it is ok to do in moderation or only once. I will not tell them to use their own judgment. I will tell them that under no circumstances will they smoke. I hope and pray that having watched me go through cancer they will never even be tempted.

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