New research indicates that women may be more biologically vulnerable to the colon cancer-causing effects of smoking. Females who smoke fewer cigarettes than males may still be at a higher risk of developing the disease.
Scientists from the University of Tromso analysed data concerning more than 600,000 19 to 67-year-olds which had been gathered by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health. The data spanned 14 years, giving analysts opportunity to look for long-term trends.
They analysed colon cancer rates in the group, and cross-referenced incidence to smoking habits in order to determine whether there were any significant trends. They then calculated the risk applicable to each gender.
Findings revealed that women increased their chance of developing the disease by 19 per cent if they took up the unhealthy habit, although smoking upped men's likelihood of colon cancer by eight per cent.
The length of time a woman had been smoking correlated to the risk, with those who had retained the habit for 40 years or more having a 50 per cent higher chance of developing the potentially fatal condition.
This could also be linked to age, since the NHS claims that more than seven-in-ten patients are 65 or older. Approximately 40,000 people in the UK are affected by this condition every year – it is the third most common form of cancer.
However, the investigators did not take confounding factors such as diet and alcohol consumption into consideration with their calculations, meaning that smoking may not be the sole factor behind women's increased likelihood of developing colon cancer.
Diet, exercise levels, alcohol consumption and genes may all play a role in causing this condition, and women may be more prone to engaging in these risk activities, especially if they are smokers.
Dr Stephanie Bernik, chief of surgical oncology at Lenox Hill Hospital, told HealthDay: "Usually, smoking goes along with other bad health habits. However, this adds to the growing data that cigarette smoking contributes to the increased risk of colon cancer."