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Secondhand Smoke Linked to Cervical Cancer


Exposure to secondhand cigarette smoke increases the risk of developing cervical tumors, according to researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and School of Medicine. The researchers’ results also corroborated past studies that found an association between active cigarette smoking and cervical neoplasia—the growth of a tumor. The concept of the Hopkins study was the result of collaboration between several researchers supported by the Maryland Cigarette Restitution Fund. The study is published in the January 2005 issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology.

“An association between active cigarette smoking and cervical cancer has been noted in numerous studies, but less is known about the potential link between passive smoking and the development of cervical neoplasia. When these new data for cervical cancer are considered in light of similar results from previously published studies, our findings suggest that passive smoking may be firmly linked with cervical cancer,” said Anthony J. Alberg, PhD, MPH, senior author of the study and an assistant professor in the Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Department of Epidemiology. “Our study of two large cohorts found that women who lived with smokers had a 40 percent or greater risk of developing cervical neoplasia.”

The Hopkins researchers examined the personal cigarette smoking and household passive smoking exposures of two Washington County, Md. , cohort groups in 1963 and 1975. Questionnaires from the two groups, which totaled 51,173 women, were compared to the Washington County cancer registry. The researchers found a stronger association between passive smoking and an increased risk for developing cervical neoplasia in the earlier cohort study—a 2.1-fold increased risk of cervical neoplasia in 1963 and a 1.4-fold increased risk in 1975.

“Public health researchers already knew that passive smoking increased heart disease and lung cancer. What we found in addition is that both active and passive smoking increases a woman’s risk for developing cervical neoplasia. Our study results are one more piece of evidence that should encourage smokers to quit and warn non-smokers who live with smokers to decrease their secondhand smoke exposure. Exposure to secondhand smoke can be reduced, and taking steps to reduce exposure may help to prevent cervical cancer,” said Dr. Alberg.

The study authors were supported in part by grants from the Maryland Cigarette Restitution Fund; National Institute of Aging; National Cancer Institute; National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences; and National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

Co-authors of the study from Johns Hopkins include Cornelia L. Trimble, MD; Jeanine M. Genkinger, PhD, MHS; Alyce E. Burke, MPH, Sandra C. Hoffman, MPH; Kathy J. Helzlsouer, MD, MHS; Marie Diener-West, PhD; George W. Comstock, MD, DrPH; Anthony J. Alberg, PhD, MPH.

Public Affairs media contacts for the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health: Kenna Lowe or Tim Parsons at 410-955-6878 or

Kenna L. Lowe | EurekAlert!
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