Colon Cancer and Smoking: Deadly Partners

The South Carolina Institute of Medicine and Public Health supports the work of our partners in raising awareness and preventing disease.  The following is shared on behalf of the S.C. Tobacco-Free Collaborative.

Colon Cancer and Smoking: Deadly Partners

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, a great time to become more aware about the link between these cancers, and smoking and secondhand smoke exposure, urges the SC Tobacco-Free Collaborative.

“Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in South Carolina behind lung cancer.  We have a great opportunity to reduce colon cancer diagnoses and death in our state by reducing tobacco use,” says Nancy Cheney, of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) and former SC Tobacco-Free Collaborative board member.

Although most people associate smoking with cancers of the lungs, mouth and esophagus, there is also a deadly link to colon and rectal cancers.

  • Those who have smoked for 40 years or longer, or who did not quit before age 40, have a 30% to 50% increased risk of developing colon or rectal cancer.  The news is particularly bad for women who smoke.  Even if they smoke less than men, research shows that they are more likely to contract colon cancer.
  • Smokers with a history of heavy, long-term tobacco use are also diagnosed with cancer of the colon at significantly younger ages than non-smokers.
  • This same research shows that individuals with colon cancer who never smoked, but who were exposed to secondhand smoke were diagnosed at a significantly younger age compared with those who were never exposed to secondhand smoke.
  • Smokers diagnosed with colorectal cancer are also more likely to die from the disease than non-smokers.  A new study by the American Cancer Society reveals that people who smoked before their colon cancer diagnosis had more than twice the risk of death from all causes.
  • The good news is that quitting smoking reduces the risk.  The more years one goes without smoking, the lower the risk of colon cancer.  Smoking after a cancer diagnosis also increases the risk of treatment complications, poor wound healing, and risk of cancer recurrence.  It is never too late to quit.  Call 1-800-QUITNOW for help.

The S.C. Tobacco-Free Collaborative will post to social media on this topic throughout the month.  Find more information on this topic on our blog, and keep an eye out for us on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest  and Instagram.  The South Carolina Tobacco-Free Collaborative is a statewide assembly of leading health organizations, community coalitions, and businesses committed to reducing the toll of tobacco use in South Carolina.

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