Producers Resource Center

Smoking Exposure Now Linked to Colon And Breast Cancers

Two studies strengthen the case for the dangers of secondhand smoke for people exposed to fumes as children and as adults.  According to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, some  17 cancers are now attributed to smoking.  Cancer and heart disease are the major critical illnesses impacting millions of Americans yearly.

Inhaling secondhand fumes may raise a woman’s odds for breast cancer or a child’s lifetime risk for lung malignancies according to the studies.  Another study found that long-term smokers have a higher risk of developing colorectal cancer, a finding that factored into the recent decision by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) to assert that there is “sufficient” evidence to link the two, up from its previous “limited” evidence. 

In preparing their reports, the researchers adjusted for other colorectal cancer risk factors, such as not getting screened, obesity, physical activity and eating a lot of red or processed meats.   They noted that people who smoke are already more likely to engage in these types of behaviors. 

This study followed almost 200,000 people over 13 years.  According to the medical researchers, current smokers had a 27 percent increased risk of colorectal cancer and former smokers a 23 percent increased risk compared with people who had never smoked. 

People who had smoked for at least half a century had the highest risk — 38 percent higher than never smokers — of developing colorectal cancer.  People who ceased smoking before the age of 40 or who had not smoked for 31 or more years had no increased risk. 

Other studies focused on the risk of secondhand smoke, or passive smoking. In one, children exposed to secondhand smoke had a higher risk of developing lung cancer as adults, researchers from institutions including the U.S. National Cancer Institute found. In another, California researchers found that adult non-smoking women who had spent long periods of time in smoking environments upped their odds of developing postmenopausal breast cancer. 

The breast cancer findings were seen mostly in postmenopausal women, with a 17 percent higher risk for those who had had low exposure, a 19 percent increased risk for those with medium exposure and a 26 percent increased risk for those who had high long-term exposure over their lifetime. 

The studies were published in the December issue of Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention,

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