Does smoking increase a woman’s risk of developing gynecologic cancers?

Amanda
James
PA

Smoking is well known to increase the risk for many different cancers and cardiovascular disease. Inforesearchlab.com reports that: Around 5.4 million deaths a year are caused by tobacco. Smoking is set to kill 6.5 million people in 2015 and 8.3 million humans in 2030, with the biggest rise in low-and middle-income countries. Every 6.5 seconds a current or former smoker dies, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). An estimated 1.3 billion people are smokers worldwide (WHO). Over 443,000 Americans (over 18 percent of all deaths) die due to smoking each year. Secondhand smoke kills about 50,000 of them. Tobacco use will kill 1 billion people in the 21st century Smokers die on average 15 years sooner than nonsmokers. Don’t smoke! It’s bad for you and those around you.

When discussing women’s cancer it is important to remember that cancer is not limited to just the breasts, cervix, uterus and ovaries. Although the leading cause of cancer in women is breast cancer, number two and three is lung and colon. Overall, the leading cause of death is lung cancer. Smoking directly causes approximately 80% of lung cancers. Smoking also increases the risk of developing and dying from colon cancer by about 18 percent and 25 percent respectively as reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Still, cancer is not the biggest killer for those who smoke. Heart disease and heart attacks are the leading causes of death in these women. Cigarette smoking increases the risk of heart disease up to four times that of a nonsmoker.

With that being said, let’s take a look at the effect cigarette smoking has on certain gynecologic cancers. Most studies have found no link between cigarette smoking and breast cancer although some recent studies suggest a possible increased risk. Women who smoke are about twice as likely as non-smokers to get cervical cancer. Smoking exposes the body to many different harmful chemicals and studies have shown tobacco products have been found in the cervical mucus of women who smoke and it is believed that smoking damages the cervical DNA leading to the development of cancer. Women with an abnormal pap, HPV virus detection, or pre-cancerous cells are urged to quit smoking. This will reduce the risk of reoccurrence or the development of cervical cancer. Smoking does not appear to increase the risk of uterine or endometrial cancer. Many studies show that smoking seems to actually decrease the risk for endometrial cancer. That would be a terrible reason to smoke though. Previously, smoking was not considered to be a risk factor for ovarian cancer, but recent studies are showing an increased risk in a certain subtype of ovarian cancer called mucinous ovarian cancer. The risk is greater with increased amount of smoking and is found to decrease over time after quitting. Deaths related to ovarian cancer after diagnosis was faster in smokers compared to nonsmokers.