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Study links tobacco smoking and colorectal cancer

By Sharon Gray

A new study from the Faculty of Medicine shows there’s one more reason not to smoke – there’s a higher risk of colorectal cancer among former and current smokers than non-smokers.

This is the first large population-based study in Canada that shows a clear relationship between colorectal cancer and tobacco use.

Newfoundland and Labrador has the highest incidence of colorectal cancer in Canada. Globally colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of death from cancer in males and the fourth leading cause of death from cancer in females.
The study, titled Tobacco Smoking and Colorectal Cancer: A Population-based Case-control Study in Newfoundland and Labrador, was published recently in the Canadian Journal of Public Health.

Dr. Peter Wang, senior author of the study, said the researchers found a significant association between smoking cigarettes and colorectal cancer. “Cigarette smoking increased the risk of colorectal cancer among men and women, but demonstrated a stronger effect for males than females.”

The study also found among drinkers there was a higher risk of colorectal cancer among former and current smokers compared to non-smokers. “However among non-drinkers, the study only found a weak relationship between smoking and the risk of colorectal cancer,” said Dr. Wang.

Overall the study indicated that the effects of smoking on colorectal cancer seemed to be stronger in males and alcohol drinkers and also demonstrated a slightly stronger effect on rectum than colon cancer.

This study was supported by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) through an interdisciplinary team research grant on colorectal cancer.

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