- There is a significant link between smoking and an increased risk of breast cancer spreading, especially to the lungs, reducing the survival rate by one-third at diagnosis.
- Nicotine plays a specific, adverse role by promoting the migration of cancer cells from the breast to the lungs, with this risk persisting even after nicotine exposure has ceased for 30 days, affecting even ex-smokers.
- Nicotine creates a conducive environment within the lungs for cancer spread, highlighting the importance of smoking cessation programs for breast cancer patients that do not involve nicotine-based products.
- A natural compound called salidroside, found in the Rhodiola rosea plant, shows promise in halting the accumulation of neutrophils that contribute to cancer spread, potentially providing a therapeutic drug against smoking-induced breast cancer lung metastasis.
- Additional exploration is required to affirm the application of these findings to human patients.
Not many are aware of the significant role smoking plays in aggravating breast cancer. Recent insights suggest a strong correlation between past or present smoking habits and its adverse influence when combating breast cancer. One of the several complications includes the promotion of the disease spread to the lungs.
Smoking and Breast Cancer Risk
It is widely acknowledged that smoking amplifies the likelihood of breast cancer propagation, resulting in a reduced survival rate by one-third at diagnosis. However, the contribution of nicotine in the migration of breast cancer cells to the lungs has not been fully comprehended until recently.
Researchers based their conclusions after studying nearly 1,100 breast cancer patients. The data indicated that both current and past smokers exhibited a higher frequency of breast cancer spread into the lungs than those who had never smoked.
The Impact of Nicotine
In an experiment involving mice, it was observed that nicotine induces this spread. Most concerningly, the effects persisted even after a removal of nicotine exposure for 30 days.
This evidences a prolonged risk associated with breast cancer patients who are ex-smokers, as per the team from Wake Forest School of Medicine located in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Their study was featured online on the 20th of January in the journal titled Nature Communications.
“Our observations reveal that nicotine exposure shapes the lungs into a region conducive for metastatic growth,” stated lead study author Kounosuke Watabe, a professor of cancer biology at Wake Forest. This long-lasting exposure to nicotine nurtures an “inflammatory microenvironment” within the lungs. This environment attracts immune cells called neutrophils, which release a protein that promotes the dispersion of cancer, as explained by the authors.
Potential Cure in the Plant Rhodiola Rosea
Fascinatingly, the team discovered that a natural compound known as salidroside, found in the plant Rhodiola rosea, halts the accumulation of neutrophils. The compound exhibits anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, and anti-viral properties. It was noted to considerably reduce the count of neutrophils and occurrence of lung metastases in mice. However, it is important to remember that results from animal studies may vary when applied to humans.
Smoking cessation and Further Research
“Considering these findings, it’s crucial that breast cancer patients opt for smoking cessation programs that do not utilize nicotine-replacement products,” suggested Watabe. Adding, “Moreover, our results indicate that salidroside may serve as a promising therapeutic drug to prevent smoking-induced breast cancer lung metastasis, although further investigation is warranted.”
The American Cancer Society offers additional information on breast cancer.
SOURCE: Wake Forest Baptist Health, Jan. 20, 2021