(RxWiki News) Past studies have shown that women smokers have a higher risk of cervical cancer. Now, new research shows that second-hand smoke may damage cells in a woman's cervix, increasing her risk of cervical cancer.
In a study of 4,403 women between the ages of 18 and 55 years, Kristy K. Ward, M.D., of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Texas Medical Branch, examined the relationship between exposure to second-hand smoke and cervical abnormalities.
Although the study's results did not demonstrate that second-hand smoke directly causes cervical cancer, or even cervical abnormalities, the researchers found that women who report exposure to second-hand smoke are more likely to have an abnormal Pap test (the test used to assess cervical health) compared to women who are not exposed to second-hand smoke.
A women who has an abnormal Pap test does not necessarily have cervical cancer. However, it does mean that she must go through more testing, or even undergo surgery, in order to ensure her health.
The authors conclude that even though their study does not establish a causal link between exposure to second-hand hand smoke and cervical damage, their findings add to a growing body of literature on the dangers of second-hand smoke.
In 2007, over 12,200 US women were diagnosed with cervical cancer. In the same year, more than 4,000 women died as a result of cervical cancer. The leading cause of cervical cancer is infection from certain strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV), a virus that causes genital warts.
The study by Dr. Ward and colleagues is published in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology.