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AMERICAN MORNING

Paging Dr. Gupta: Smoking, Breast Cancer

Aired January 7, 2004 - 08:33   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Evidence of a new deadly link between smoking and breast cancer. Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins us with details of a new study from the National Cancer Institute.
Good morning.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning.

And you're right. You know, smoking and cancer, people sort of link those two things inextricably.

Breast cancer has been a little bit more difficult. A medical lawyer would suggest that people know that those have been linked as well. In fact, some of the breakdown products in cigarette smoke have been found in breast fluid for sometime, but they haven't been able to make the link really conclusively really up until now.

Just a couple of numbers. About 200,000 American women will develop breast cancer, about 40,000 die of breast cancer every year. Those numbers are important to keep in mind.

According to the study, now smoking is also being linked to breast cancer. This is a study of 116,000 women. They followed them for a long time -- young, old women, women who smoked a lot and little as well. There were specific smokers who seemed to be most at risk: people who picked up the habit before the age of 20, for example, a significant risk; smoking five years before the first pregnancy; having smoked for a long time; and smoking 20-plus cigarettes a day. Those seemed to be the most at-risk smokers.

O'BRIEN: And how much did their risk increase for breast cancer?

GUPTA: It was interesting. In all comers, all smokers, about 30 percent across the board, so it's pretty significant, you know, if you look at it. And this is active smokers. You know, people talk about second-hand smoke. They talk about people who live with smokers or work with smokers.

They didn't account for all of that. That's all still going to be the subject of further research. But 30 percent across the board is pretty significant, when you're talking about 200,000 women developing breast cancer every year.

O'BRIEN: Do they know exactly -- and I think you're right when you sort of, I think, people often link cancer and smoking. But do they know specifically what causes breast cancer, the process that causes breast cancer? GUPTA: It's really interesting, and that's still going to be a little bit more of the research that comes down the road.

But here's the thought on it anyway. When you think about cigarette smoke, when you think about cigarettes, you're thinking about all sorts of different breakdown products -- about 43 breakdown products that deposit themselves in various parts of the body.

So, for example, lung cancer is sort of an obvious one. You smoke and it goes directly into your lungs. But ammonia, tar, things like that, can also cause these cancers -- lung, throat, head and neck and esophagus cancer. Those may make sense to you as well, because when you smoke, you directly expose those areas to the smoke.

But look at these cancers, though. These are also cancers that have been conclusively linked to smoking -- cervix, bladder, pancreas and kidney. How does that happen, Soledad? Because it's these breakdown products actually are getting throughout the body.

O'BRIEN: It's bad, you should quit -- the final takeaway as we wrap up every single smoking segment we ever do, right?

GUPTA: Yes, you know, it's one of the biggest public health messages you and I can do right now. It will save your life. It will probably prolong your life if you stop smoking now, even if you've been a smoker for a long time.

O'BRIEN: All right, Sanjay Gupta, thanks.

GUPTA: Good to see you.

O'BRIEN: Dr. Gupta, appreciate it.

GUPTA: Yes, take care.

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