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    Lighting Up May Be Hazardous to Your Colon

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    David Frank, PhD, MD, agrees. "It certainly strengthens the idea that one should be discouraged from smoking and that people should be discouraged from smoking early in their life," he tells WebMD. "That's one of the important factors here. The damage takes many decades to show up, so many people in their 20s think they can smoke and then stop and it's okay -- this is part of the evidence which shows that this isn't a good approach." Frank, who is an assistant professor of medicine at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, was not involved in the study.

    The researchers also noted that the nonsmokers also tended to be involved in other health habits that have been shown to possibly decrease the risk of colon cancer. The men who were still smoking tended to drink more alcoholic beverages on a daily basis and were the least likely to take part in vigorous exercise. Those who never smoked, on the other hand, were the most enthusiastic about exercising.

    While lifestyle factors are important and should not be ignored, believes Frank, people should not underestimate the damage caused by smoking. "Smoking still remains a huge risk, despite the lifestyle."

    Realistically, Gynn says, this research, in and of itself, is not going to keep teens from smoking. "But it feeds into the need to find public health approaches, what's the best method to keep kids from peer pressure to begin smoking. And this particular message may be more relevant to an older age group -- the 50-year-old smoker or ex-smoker, especially if they have a relative who has died of colon cancer. They may need to be more aggressive about getting screened."

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