Most people understand the link between smoking and lung cancer, but researchers are learning even casual smokers are increasing their risk for other cancer types as well.
Case in point: Smoking increases the risk for developing colorectal cancer, and female smokers may have a greater risk than male smokers, according to data published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.
Inger Torhild Gram, M.D., Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Community Medicine at the University of Tromsø in Norway, wanted to know why the number of new colon cancer cases per year has exploded during the last 50 years for men and women.
During her study she and her colleagues found startling new evidence to suggest women who smoke less than men still get more colon cancer.
“The finding that women who smoke even a moderate number of cigarettes daily have an increased risk for colon cancer will account for a substantial number of new cases because colon cancer is such a common disease,” said Gram in a written statement.
Colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and the second leading cause of cancer death in men and women combined in the United States, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health. About 72 percent of cases arise in the colon and about 28 percent in the rectum.
“A causal relationship between smoking and colorectal cancer has recently been established by the International Agency for Research on Cancer of the World Health Organization, but unfortunately, this is not yet common knowledge, neither among health personnel nor the public,” she said.
The American Cancer Society estimates that 142,820 people will be diagnosed with colon cancer in 2013 and that 50,830 will die from colon cancer in the United States.
It’s important to note that while colorectal cancer can be extremely deadly, it’s also one of the most preventable cancer types.