You've Come a Long Way Baby - Now Stop

Cancer rates higher for women who smoke

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) It's common knowledge that smoking cigarettes can cause lung cancer. But it turns out that smokers may have to worry about more than just their lungs, especially women.

In a case-control study looking at rates of skin cancer in smokers, researchers compared a group of people who had been diagnosed with skin cancer against another similar group of people who did not have skin cancer.

Researchers then evaluated both groups for tobacco use. It was found that in women who smoked, squamous cell carcinoma of the skin occurred three times more frequently than normal.

"Ask your doctor for advice on how to quit smoking today."

Dana E. Rollison, Ph.D. and associate professor at the Moffitt Cancer Center, analyzed data from 698 people in Florida to produce her results, but did not anticipate the difference between men and women.

Risks for female smokers are not just higher for skin cancer. Rollison observes, "female current smokers have higher lung cancer risks than men. Women have been shown to have [higher] enzyme activity in the lung...estrogen may play a role."

Male smokers were not observed to have a similar elevation in their risk of skin cancer. Other risks of smoking thought to be linked to estrogen include a problems with blood vessels and clotting, such as stroke.

Data from came from 215 patients diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma, 165 diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma, compared to a control group of 315 people. Cancer risk was analyzed cancer by gender, packs per day, total years spent smoking as well as if the person had ever stopped smoking. The statistically significant three-fold risk was only observed with squamous cell carcinoma.

The correlation still held true after adjusting for age and sex. Risk increased with cigarettes per day as well as years smoked.

The study was published online in the November edition of Cancer Causes & Control.

The Moffitt Department of Cancer Epidemiology is a not-for-profit organization. 

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Review Date: 
January 21, 2012
Last Updated:
January 26, 2012