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Open Access Research article

Case-control study of tobacco smoke exposure and breast cancer risk in Delaware

Dana E Rollison1*, Ross C Brownson2, H Leroy Hathcock3 and Craig J Newschaffer45

Author Affiliations

1 Division of Cancer Prevention & Control, H Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute; Tampa, FL, USA

2 Department of Community Health and Prevention Research Center, Saint Louis University School of Public Health, St Louis MO, USA

3 Delaware Division of Public Health, Dover, DE, USA

4 Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Drexel University School of Public Health, Philadelphia, PA, USA

5 Department of Epidemiology, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD, USA

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BMC Cancer 2008, 8:157  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-8-157

Published: 2 June 2008



Tobacco smoke exposure may be associated with increased breast cancer risk, although the evidence supporting the association is inconclusive. We conducted a case-control study in Delaware, incorporating detailed exposure assessment for active and secondhand smoke at home and in the workplace.


Primary invasive breast cancer cases diagnosed among female Delaware residents, ages 40–79, in 2000–2002 were identified through the Delaware cancer registry (n = 287). Delaware drivers license and Health Care Finance Administration records were used to select age frequency-matched controls for women <65 and ≥ 65, respectively. Detailed information on tobacco smoke exposure was obtained through telephone interviews.


A statistically significant increased risk of breast cancer was observed for ever having smoked cigarettes (odds ratio = 1.43, 95% confidence interval = 1.03–1.99). However, there was no evidence of a dose-response relationship between breast cancer risk and total years smoked, cigarettes per day, or pack-years. Neither residential nor workplace secondhand smoke exposure was associated with breast cancer. Recalculations of active smoking risks using a purely unexposed reference group of women who were not exposed to active or secondhand smoking did not indicate increased risks of breast cancer.


These findings do not support an association between smoking and breast cancer.