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Women Smokers and Colon Cancer Risk

Just a few cigarettes a day raises their risk, researchers say
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WebMD News from HealthDay

By Steven Reinberg

HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, April 30 (HealthDay News) -- Smoking's connection to cancer is well-established. Now, researchers say cigarettes increase the odds for developing colon cancer, especially for women.

Women who've ever smoked have an almost 20 percent increased risk for colon cancer, compared with women who never smoked, according to the new study, published April 30 in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

"Women who smoke even 10 or fewer cigarettes a day increase their risks for colon cancer," said lead researcher Dr. Inger Gram, a professor in the department of community medicine at the University of Tromso in Norway.

"Because colon cancer is such a common disease, even this moderate smoking accounts for many new cases," she said. "A lot of colon cancer can be prevented if people don't smoke -- especially women."

The study involved data on more than 600,000 men and women, aged 19 to 67, surveyed by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health. Participants answered questions about their smoking habits, physical activity and other lifestyle factors.

Over 14 years of follow-up nearly 4,000 people developed colon cancer, and the odds were greatest for smokers, women in particular. The risk for colon cancer increased 19 percent among women who smoked and 8 percent for men who smoked, according to Gram's team.

The more years a woman smoked, the earlier she started smoking, and the more packs of cigarettes smoked a year, the greater her risk of developing colon cancer. Women who smoked for 40 years or more increased their risk for colon cancer almost 50 percent, the researchers said.

Their risk was especially high for developing proximal, or right-sided, colon cancer, with a type of tumor specifically related to smoking, Gram noted.

Gram said she was surprised the link between smoking and colon cancer was so much greater for women, and said the reasons aren't clear.

Although this study shows an association between smoking and colon cancer, it does not establish a cause-and-effect relationship. However, the link between smoking and colon cancer is more than a coincidence, Gram pointed out.

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