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Pipes and Hookahs Pose Same Risks as Cigars

Pipe Smoking Associated With an Increased Risk of 6 out of 9 Cancers

WebMD Health News

June 1, 2004 -- Traditional pipe or trendy hookah smokers face the same or worse cancer and other disease risks as cigar smokers, according to a new study.

Researchers say the health risks associated cigar and cigarette smoking have been well documented, but there have been few studies to look exclusively at pipe smoking.

Pipe are the least commonly used tobacco product in the U.S., and researchers say pipe smoking rates have dropped from about 14% in 1965 to 2% in 1991. But they say pipe smoking has actually increased among middle and high school students in recent years thanks to the growing popularity of hookahs, an Egyptian water pipe.

Researchers say pipe smoking is most common among men over age 45, in the Midwest, and among American Indians.

Pipe Smoking and Disease Risk

To determine the risks associated with exclusive pipe smoking, researchers analyzed data from 138,307 men who were enrolled in the Cancer Prevention Study II, which included more than 15,000 pipe smokers. The participants were followed for nearly 18 years, and researchers used that information to determine the risk of nine cancers and three other diseases associated with pipe smoking.

The results appear in the June 2 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Pipe smoking was associated with an increased risk of six out of the nine cancers: colorectal, esophagus, larynx (throat), lung, oropharynx (mouth and vocal cords), and pancreas. Specifically, the study showed that compared with nontobacco users, pipe smokers had:

  • Five times the risk of lung cancer
  • Nearly four times the risk of throat cancer
  • More than twice the risk of esophageal cancer
  • 13 times the risk of cancer of the larynx
  • 40% higher risk of colon cancer

The study also showed that pipe smokers had a higher risk of other tobacco-related diseases compared with nonsmokers. For example, pipe smokers were:

  • 30% more likely to develop heart disease
  • 27% more likely to have a stroke
  • Nearly three times as likely to develop chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD, an irreversible lung disease)

Researchers say that overall the cancer and disease risks associated with pipe smoking were similar or worse than those associated with cigar smoking. Although the risk of dying from tobacco-associated diseases is lower for pipe-smokers than for cigarette smokers.

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