Women Smokers Less Likely to Get Cancer Screenings

TUESDAY, Aug. 18, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- Women smokers already have one bad habit. A new study finds another: They're less likely than others to go for cancer screenings.

Moreover, they're more likely to have spreading cancer when diagnosed, according to findings.

For the report, researchers collected data on more than 89,000 postmenopausal women who took part in a long-running U.S. study.

More than half had never smoked; 41% were former smokers; and 6% were current smokers, although nearly half of these women quit smoking by the end of the study.

Over an average of nine years of follow-up, more than 7,000 women developed breast cancer, 1,600 had colon cancer and 61 had cervical cancer.

Compared with nonsmokers, former smokers were more likely to have regular cancer screenings, but current smokers were much less likely to do so.

The report was published online Aug. 13 in the journal BMJ Open.

"Concern for personal health is the most common reason given for smoking cessation among former smokers, and may explain why this health-conscious population seeks cancer screening more frequently than never smokers," said researchers led by Dr. Jean Tang, a dermatology professor at Stanford School of Medicine in California.

"On the contrary, smokers are overly optimistic about their health and consistently underestimate the magnitude of their cancer risk," they said in a journal news release.

Compared with women who had never smoked, current smokers were 45% less likely to get screened for breast cancer; 47% less likely to get screened for cervical cancer, and 29% less likely to get screened for colon cancer, the researchers found.

The more that former and current smokers smoked, the less likely they were to have cancer screenings, the study revealed.

Not having regular screening was also linked with more advanced cancer. Current smokers were nearly three times more likely to be diagnosed with late-stage breast cancer, and more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with late-stage colon cancer, compared with those who never smoked.

This study can't prove that smoking is the reason women don't get screening, only that there seems to be a connection.

More information

For more on cancer screening, visit the American Cancer Society.

SOURCE: BMJ Open, news release, Aug. 13, 2020

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