Urinary Tract Cancer Likes Heavy Smokers

Urothelial cancer risk higher in women with long term heavy smoking habits

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) Smoking cigarettes has been linked to a number of cancers and usually the risk for men and women are similar. But, with cancer in the urinary tract tissue, women seem to take the blow.

A recent study asked a group of patients with cancer in the tissue of their urinary tract about their smoking history.

The results of the study showed that women that smoked a pack a day or more for at least 20 years were twice as likely to develop this type of cancer than non-smokers.

The same increased cancer risk from smoking was not found in men.

"Quit smoking"

Shahrokh Shariat, MD, from the Weill Medical College at Cornell University and Presbyterian Hospital in New York, led an investigation into links between tobacco use and cancer in the lining of the urinary tract.

The urothelium is a tissue that lines most of the urinary tract, including the bladder, kidneys and part of the urethra.

For the study, 864 patients with urothelial cancer were recruited from five different medical facilities. Each patient had undergone a radical nephroureterectomy without chemotherapy.

A radical nephroureterectomy is surgery to remove the entire lining of the urinary tract.

The researchers asked the patients, 64 percent men and 36 percent women, about their smoking history.

Light, short-term smoking was defined as smoking 19 cigarettes or fewer per day for less than 20 years. Heavy, long-term smoking was defined as smoking 20 cigarettes or more per day for 20 or more years. Moderate smoking was defined as any rates of smoking that was not light, short-term or heavy, long-term.

The results of the study showed that 28 percent of patients were never smokers, 34 percent were former smokers and 37 percent were current smokers.

When the researchers looked at the women in the group, 10 percent were light, short-term smokers, 39 percent were moderate smokers and 21 percent were heavy, long-term smokers.

The researchers found that women, in particular, were nearly twice as likely to develop urothelial cancer and twice as likely to die from that cancer if they were heavy, long-term smokers.

The same links between smoking and developing urothelial cancer were not found for men.

The authors concluded that cigarette smoking was worse for the course of urothelial cancer for women than men. Women were more likely to have their cancer return and to die from urothelial cancer than men.

The authors recommended further research to uncover why exactly the risk for developing urothelial cancer in heavy long-term smokers was so much higher in women than in men.  

This study was published in March in BJU International.

The Frederick J and Theresa Dow Wallace Fund of the New York Community Trust supported funding for this project. No conflicts of interest were declared. Michael Rink has been a speaker for Pfizer Pharma and Shahrokh F. Shariat is an Advisory Board member of Ferring Phama. 

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Review Date: 
March 13, 2013
Last Updated:
March 17, 2013