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This Week in the British Medical Journal: Mar 7, 2011

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In the British Medical Journal this week, Mount Sinai School of Medicine researcher Paolo Boffetta and Philippe Autier of the International Prevention Research Institute in France say there is evidence to show that smoking is "probably" associated with breast cancer, especially when the smoking starts early in life. Changes in smoking habits in many countries have caused higher rates of tobacco-related morbidity to shift from men to women, the authors write. Recent studies have shown that both active and passive smoking are associated with increased risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women, and the results "support the conclusions of two recent expert panels that the breast should be added to the list of target organs of tobacco carcinogenicity," Boffetta and Autier add.

Also in the British Medical Journal this week, Susan Mayor reports that one year cancer survival rates in England remain "poor" compared to some other European countries. A report published by the House of Commons public accounts committee shows that the National Health Service is making progress in improving cancer services for patients and reducing mortality rates for several cancers, Mayor says. But the report shows that "one year survival rates for several cancers are still poor compared with those in the best performing European countries," which suggests that "this is likely to be because of low awareness of symptoms among the public and GPs, and late diagnosis," she adds. Among other concerns, the report found that there is great variety in GP practice across England in referring patients with cancer symptoms to specialists, and the types and availabilities of treatments and cancer services.