Cigarette smoke carcinogens: they hurt HER more than HIM

May 5, 2009 by  
Filed under CANCER

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lips_with_smokeHealth problems and outcomes can vary depending on gender. Men and women can have different susceptibility to certain diseases. Several recent studies indicate that women are more susceptible to carcinogens in cigarette smoke than men.

Swiss researchers followed up 683 lung cancer patients who have been referred to a cancer center between 2000 and 2005. The results showed that female cancer patients tended to be younger when they developed the cancer, despite having smoked on average significantly less than their male counterparts.

According to lead researcher Dr Martin Frueh

“Our findings suggest that women may have an increased susceptibility to tobacco carcinogens.”

When people are asked what the leading cause of cancer death among women in the US is, the reply is usually breast cancer. However, the correct answer is actually lung cancer. Lung cancer used to be considered a “man’s disease.” However, since smoking became popular among women, the incidence of lung cancer among women has dramatically increased.

Irish researchers, however, report a silver lining to the cloud of lung cancer. It seems that women have better outcomes than men after surgical removal of lung tumors. The researchers studied 640 patients whose non-small-cell lung cancer was surgically removed over a 10-year period, 239 of whom were women. They found that median survival after surgery was 2.1 years for men, and 4.7 years for women.

Apparently, lung cancer is not the only evidence of women’s vulnerability to the adverse effects of cigarette smoke. American researchers reported last year that cigarette smoke carcinogens also cause colorectal cancer and that women are more susceptible than men. The study followed up 2,707 patients who had colonoscopy between 1999 and 2006.The patients’ average age was 57 years. The study looked at the extent of tobacco exposure, which was expressed in terms of “pack years ” calculated by multiplying the packs of cigarettes smoked per day by the number of smoking years.

According to lead researcher Dr. Joseph Anderson

“While men and women shared a similar two-fold risk for developing significant colorectal neoplasia, women required less tobacco exposure in pack years than men to have an increase in colorectal cancer risk.”

According to the National Cancer Institute, cigarette smoke contains more 4,000 chemicals. More than 60 of these are classified as carcinogenic. The aforementioned studies only looked at the effects of carcinogens on the smokers. It is also a well-known fact that second hand or environemental smoke passes on some of these carcinogens to non-smokers.

 Why women are more susceptible to carcinogens in cigarette smoke is not so clearly understood. However, it is something that should be taken seriously.

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.

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