Add Cancer of Colon and Rectum to List of Cigarette Crimes
WebMD News Archive
Dec. 5, 2000 -- People who claim that there is no link between
cigarettes and colorectal cancer are just blowing smoke, suggest researchers
from the American Cancer Society, who found that about 12% of all deaths from
colorectal cancer in the U.S. in 1997 were attributable to smoking.
"Our main finding is that men and women who smoked
cigarettes for 20 or more years at study enrollment experienced higher
colorectal cancer death rates," write Ann Chao, PhD, and colleagues in the
Dec. 6 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Long-time
smokers were more likely to die from colorectal cancers than nonsmokers even
when other factors such as diet, family history of colorectal cancers, alcohol
use, and age were taken into consideration.
Chao tells WebMD that among current smokers "men had about
a 30% increase in colorectal cancer deaths." Chao, a research scholar in
the epidemiology and research surveillance division of the American Cancer
Society (ACS), also found that women who had smoked for less than 20 years had
only a slightly increased risk for colorectal cancer, but those who had been
puffing away for two decades or more had a risk for colorectal cancer
approaching that of male smokers.
Death rates from colorectal cancer were highest among current
smokers, intermediate in former smokers, and lowest in those who never took up
the addictive habit. Death rates from colon and rectal cancer rose in step with
the number of years of smoking in both men and women and with number of
cigarettes smoked per day. People who started smoking at age 15 or earlier had
a nearly 50% greater risk for colorectal cancer than their counterparts who
The study also confirmed that the sooner smokers quit, the
better. "Among former smokers, risk decreased with the number of years
since smoking cessation. Former smokers who quit smoking at least 20 years
before study enrollment were not at demonstrably increased risk compared with
never smokers," the researchers write. The results highlight the importance
of never taking up the habit or at least quitting early, they emphasize.