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Women and Smoking

According to the surgeon general's second report on women and smoking, one of the most pressing women's health challenges of the 21st century is entirely preventable: smoking. The report's senior editor, Dr. Virginia Ernster, points out the magnitude of smoking's impact on women's health:

Ernster: "The report concludes that in the 1990's, annually in this country, about 165-thousand women die of smoking-related diseases.  Lung cancer has become the leading cause of cancer deaths in American women, almost entirely as a result of cigarette smoking."

Women who smoke risk cancers at many other sites, as well, including the mouth, bladder, kidney and throat:

Ernster: "Then in addition to cancers, doubling of the risk of heart disease, increased risk of stroke, of osteoporosis, adverse pregnancy outcomes...there are more problems at the time of birth...women who smoke have earlier menopause than women who don't smoke...increased risk of premature facial wrinkling and on and on." 

Dr. Ernster says the good news from this report is that the proportion of US women who smoke has fallen from 33 percent to 22 percent since the 1960's:

Ernster: "And if we can keep smoking prevalence lower and declining, then we will see a turnaround in lung cancer, and we've actually started to see a turnaround in lung cancer rates among younger women...the generations that were less likely to smoke than their mothers."

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Created: 7/3/2001  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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