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There is a long established link between cigarette smoking and lung cancer, but new research shows there is also a link between smoking and colon cancer, especially for women.

In an article published this month in Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention, researchers in Norway followed more than 600,000 men and women and found that female smokers had a 19 percent increased chance of developing colon cancer over non-smokers. Male smokers had an 8 percent increased chance of developing colon cancer over non-smokers.

“Globally, during the last 50 years, the number of new colon cancer cases per year has exploded for both men and women,” said Inger Torhild Gram, M.D., Ph.D., professor in the Department of Community Medicine at the University of Tromsø in Norway and one of the study’s authors. “Our study is the first that shows women who smoke less than men still get more colon cancer.”

The study concluded that female smokers might be more susceptible especially to proximal or left sided colon cancers than male smokers. “The finding that women who smoke even a moderate number of cigarettes daily have an increased risk for colon cancer will account for a substantial number of new cases because colon cancer is such a common disease,” said Gram.

Women smokers who are inspired by this latest research to quit may actually have a tougher time kicking the habit than men.

In the April 2012 issue of JAMA Psychiatry researchers at Yale University School of Medicine published research regarding the way nicotine affects the brains of men and women. The research showed the number of nicotine receptors in men increases more than in women when smoking. Therefore, women may not respond as well to nicotine therapies, like patches or chewing gums designed to help people quit smoking.

This is problematic because nicotine based therapies are the most frequently used in smoking cessation programs.  For women, sensory cues like the feel and smell of smoking had a greater impact on their feelings of dependence on cigarettes.  This isn’t to say that women can’t quit smoking, but it suggests that they should explore other tools and strategies. 

The U.S Department of Health and Human Services, the National Institutes of Health and the National Cancer Institute have all teamed up to create the website Smokefree Women.  The site has an abundance of tools to help support people who are trying to quit, including a texting service that provides support and encouragement, a quit guide mobile app, a journal template to help women track their cravings, and a medication guide for those people who would like to use a medication to support their efforts to quit. For more information on the relationship between female smokers and their health, here are 11 additional health reasons that should encourage women to quit smoking.

Topics: Colon Cancer News and Information