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Female Smokers May Have a Greater Risk of Colon Cancer Compared to Male Smokers, Never-Smokers

Update Date: May 01, 2013 12:58 PM EDT

Most of us are well-aware of many of the ill health effects of smoking, particularly in the form of respiratory conditions like lung cancer and emphysema. However, a recent study has found that smoking can elevate the risk of colorectal cancer as well. What's more, women - even those who smoke less cigarettes and less often than men - are more likely to develop colorectal cancer than men are.

"A causal relationship between smoking and colorectal cancer has recently been established by the International Agency for Research on Cancer of the World Health Organization, but unfortunately, this is not yet common knowledge, neither among health personnel nor the public," Dr. Inger Torhild Gram, a professor at the University of Tromsø in Norway, said in a statement.

The study was conducted by studying 602,242 participants who were between the ages of 19 and 67 at the start of the examination period in 1972. All of the participants were enrolled in the national health registry. The researchers tracked the participants' health for an average of 14 years, during which time 3,998 women developed colorectal cancer. As enrolled members in the health registry, the participants needed to answer questions about smoking habits, their level of physical activity and other lifestyle factors, according to Fox News.

The researchers found that women who smoked had a 19 percent increased risk for colorectal cancer compared to women who had never smoked. In men, smokers had an 8 percent risk for colorectal cancer. The risk for colorectal cancer was particularly high for women who had begun smoking before the age of 16 or who had smoked for 40 years or longer; they saw a 40 percent increased risk for a particular form of colorectal cancer, proximal colon cancer, according to Health Day.

Researchers were unable to account for various factors that may play a role in the development of colorectal cancer, like diet and alcohol consumption. From their findings, however, it may seem that female smokers have an increased susceptibility for this type of cancer, the BBC reports.

Colorectal cancer is the third leading form of diagnosed cancer and the second deadliest one. However, experts say that it does not need to be that way; by one estimate, if everyone was screened properly and regularly for colorectal cancer, 60 percent of deaths could be prevented.

The study was published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention.

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