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Women Smokers Lose 14.5 Years Off Life Span

November is lung cancer awareness month, and doctors urge everyone to kick the habit

THURSDAY, Nov. 27 (HealthDay News) -- During Lung Cancer Awareness Month in November, female smokers should take advantage of available resources, pick a quit day, and start taking steps toward kicking the habit, urges The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).

Even though smoking takes an average of 14.5 years off women's lives, almost one in five American women age 18 and older smokes.

"The damaging effects of smoking on women are extensive, well-documented, and can be observed from the cradle to the premature grave," Dr. Sharon Phelan said in an organization news release. She helped develop ACOG's smoking cessation materials for health care providers.

"Smoking is a harmful habit that negatively affects nearly every organ in the body. There's just no good reason not to quit," she said.

Here's a list of the dangers:

  • Smoking is the main cause of lung cancer, the leading cause of cancer death in women. Since 1950, lung cancer deaths among women have increased more than 600 percent, according to ACOG.
  • Smoking also significantly increases the risk of many other cancers in women, including breast, oral, pharynx, larynx, esophageal, pancreatic, kidney, bladder, uterine, and cervical cancers.
  • Women who smoke are twice as likely to develop coronary heart disease and 10 times more likely to die from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) than nonsmokers.
  • Smoking increases the risk of emphysema, bronchitis, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, cataracts, lower bone density after menopause, and hip fracture. It can also contribute to early menopause, gum disease, tooth loss, and premature skin aging.
  • Reproductive-age women who smoke may have trouble conceiving, and pregnant women who smoke are at high risk of delivering preterm or low birth weight infants or having babies with poor lung function, bronchitis or asthma.
  • Women over age 35 who smoke and take birth control pills are at risk for developing deadly blood clots.

"Pregnant women should absolutely not smoke, and smoking should not be allowed in the home after a baby is born," Phelan said. "Unfortunately, we know that infants and young children are more heavily exposed to secondhand smoke than adults, and parents, guardians, or other members of the household often smoke around them."

Almost 60 percent of children ages 3 to 11 are exposed to secondhand smoke, which puts them at increased risk for a wide range of health problems.

More information

The American Cancer Society has more about women and smoking.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, news release, Nov. 3, 2008

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