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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Tobacco exposure and breast cancer : perspectives of young women Ptolemy, Erin Christine


Based on available evidence researchers have concluded that young women who smoke or have regular long-term exposure to secondhand smoke (SHS) have an increased risk of developing premenopausal breast cancer. To date there have been few efforts aimed at raising awareness among young women about this modifiable risk factor for breast cancer. The aim of this research was to further knowledge about young women aged 15 to 24 as an audience for messaging about tobacco smoke and breast cancer. Young women (n=121) responded to an online survey examining perceived importance of and interest in risk and risk reduction information, as well as potential barriers and strategies to messaging related to tobacco smoke and breast cancer risk. Participants ranged in age from 15 to 24 years, with the average age of participants being 21 years (SD= 2.21). The findings indicate that in general young women were interested in information about tobacco exposure as a risk factor for breast cancer. Most participants identified that information about smoking and SHS is important to them at this stage of their life, and most participants reported that they were interested in learning about how to reduce their risk for tobacco-related breast cancer. Age was found to be an important factor influencing young women’s perceptions, with young adults holding more favourable attitudes towards information about breast cancer and smoking than teens. Potential barriers to messaging that young women identified include lack of motivation to find this information, not thinking about the long-term consequences of their actions, and beliefs that breast cancer is “something older women get”. Messaging strategies participants perceived as effective included providing young women with facts and personal stories of breast cancer, hearing about this information from peers, and targeting all smokers who place young women at risk for breast cancer with public awareness messages about smoking and breast cancer. These findings have important implications for future research, health messaging, policy development, and practice.

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