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Active and passive cigarette smoke risky for cervical cancer.


Women smokers and women exposed to cigarette smoke face a higher risk of cervical cancer than those not exposed, says a Utah-based study.

The study, led by Martha L. Slattery of the University of Utah School of Medicine in Salt Lake City, compared the history of cigarette smoke exposure and other risk factors of 266 women diagnosed with cervical cancer. The researchers also studied more than 400 women not diagnosed with cervical cancer. Many in the study population were members of the MormonChurch, a denomination that forbids its members to use tobacco. The study was concluded in Utah, the state that houses the world headquarters of the Mormon Church, in order to better differentiate actual smokers from passive smokers.

The study found that those who were smokers during the program were nearly three-and-a-half times more likely to develop cervical cancer than the nonsmokers. Those who had smoked at least a pack of cigarettes a day for five or more years (but were no longer smoking at the time of the research program) were nearly three times more likely to develop cervicalcancer than nonsmokers. And even those who had smoked at least 100 cigarettes during their lifetime were at risk as well: over twice that of nonsmokers. More than half of the women with cervical cancer were smokers, compared with 25 percent of the controls. Passive smoke was also linked with increased cervical cancer risk; women who reported passive smoke exposure for three or more hours a day were nearly three times more likely to be diagnosed with cervical cancer as non-exposed women. Exposure to "a lot" of passive smoke in the home or office doubled their risk of developing cervical cancer.

The recent discovery that high levels of nicotine are found in the cervical mucus of smokers has suggested that cigarette smoke carcinogens might play a direct role in causing the cancer. Although the findings took into account such risk factors as age, marital status, lifetime cigarette usage, limited medical history, and contraceptive use, the study was begun five years ago, before scientists determined that the human papilloma virus was the cervical cancer villain. Because the authors had no accessibility to data about exposure to the papilloma virus, Dr. Peter M. Layde of the Marshfield Medical Research Foundation in Marshfield, Wis., concludes in an accompanying editorial, "The adjusted relative risks presented by Slattery and colleagues likely overestimate the true risk attributable to both active and passive smoking." He adds, "In any case, this is the first epidemiologic evaluation of the role of passive smoking in causing cervical cancer, and hence the findings should be interpreted cautiously, pending confirmation."
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Publication:Medical Update
Date:May 1, 1989
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