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More cervical cancer in passive smokers.

More cervical cancer in passive smokers

Women passively exposed to cigarette smoke run a higher risk of cervical cancer than those who remain relatively unexposed, researchers report. In addition, the findings bolster evidence that personal smoking boosts the risk of developing cervical cancer, which strikes about 13,000 U.S. women annually.

Martha L. Slattery at the University of Utah School of Medicine in Salt Lake City and her colleagues identified 266 cervical cancer patients and randomly picked 408 healthy women to act as controls. Interviewers asked participants about smoking, passive smoke exposure, sexual history, diet and other lifestyle differences. Evidence suggests a sexually transmitted virus causes cervical cancer, but smoking may make the cervix vulnerable to such infections, the researchers say.

Women passively exposed to smoke for three hours or more per day were nearly three times as likely to have cervical cancer as those not exposed to passive smoke, the researchers report in the March 17 JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION. Passive smoke exposure raised the cancer danger for nonsmokers and smokers alike, independent of other risk factors, the researchers say.

"This is the first adequate epidemiologic evaluation of the role of passive smoking in causing cervical cancer," says Peter M. Layde, director of the department of epidemiology at Marshfield (Wis.) Medical Research Foundation in an accompanying editorial. Although the study suggests an association between passive smoking and cervical cancer, further research must verify the finding, Layde says.

The team also examined the role of personal smoking habits, and found smokers more than three times as likely as nonsmokers to have cervical cancer.

The report reopens a decade-old controversy about the role of cigarette smoking in the development of cervical cancer. "It's pretty clear now that cervical cancer should be on the list of smoking-related cancers," says coauthor John W. Gardner, now at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Md. Others are not so sure. Smokers' heightened risk of cervical cancer may be attributable to their greater likelihood of having multiple sex partners compared with nonsmokers, Layde notes.
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Author:Fackelmann, K.A.
Publication:Science News
Date:Mar 18, 1989
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