Women are more prone to developing lung cancer than men because of tobacco, say doctors. On World No Tobacco Day, city doctors said in the past, it was believed that lung cancer occurs in women from low socioeconomic strata but recently it has been observed to be increasing in higher socio economic strata of women as well.
India stands third in female tobacco utilization and nearly 12 million women consume tobacco in some form or the other. The National Cancer Registry Program of the Indian Council of Medical Research has reported a rise in incidence of lung cancer in women to bring the male: female ratio from 4.5:1 in 2002 to 3:1 in 2008. A similar trend of rise in lung cancer in women in India has been noted and reported by most leading cancer centres in the country.
Ignorance leads female smoker to face high risk of lung cancer
Indoor burning too plays a major role in making women prone to lung cancer
Women who are exposed to the smoke from cooking and heating are more susceptible than men to lung cancer
Female smokers are more likely to develop a specific genetic mutation believed to lead to lung adenocarcinoma, the most common histologic variant of lung cancer. Research has shown that women smokers are more likely to have KRAS G12C mutation and to develop lung cancer at a younger age, with a shorter history of smoking or second hand smoking than male smokers. Environmental pollution is also thought to be a significant contributory factor for lung cancer causation in both smokers and non-smokers.
Dr Sewanti Limaye, Consultant & Medical Oncology Surgeon at Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital (KDAH), said, “Smoking could directly be responsible for cancers of the mouth, larynx (voice box), throat, lung, oesophagus, stomach, pancreas, liver, colon, rectum, cervix, kidney, bladder and blood cancers. Chewing tobacco has been directly linked to the causation of cancers of the mouth, food pipe, stomach and pancreas.”
She further stated “Exposure to tobacco in any form causes “field cancerization effect” and could lead to cancerous changes in the entire area of exposure. Living with a smoker increases the chance of developing lung cancer by 20-30%. Passive smoking or second hand smoking increases the risk of lung, breast, nasal cavity and nasopharyngeal cancers in adults and blood cancers and brain tumours in children. No levels of passive smoking are considered safe and all measures should be taken to prevent passive exposure to non-smokers.”
Dr Limaye also underlined that smoking is one of the causes of female infertility. “Once the woman is pregnant, smoking during pregnancy could lead to miscarriage, premature delivery and low birth weight baby .Smoking while pregnant could lead to malformed babies/birth defects like cleft lip and cleft palate. It has also been linked with sudden infant death syndrome where the cause of death of an infant is not found.”
“It is never too late to consider quitting tobacco use. The risk of several cancers reduces significantly 5-10 years after of stopping to smoke or chew tobacco. Quitting tobacco even at the time of cancer diagnosis reduces the risk of death from cancer,” added Dr Limaye.
Dr Amita Nene, Head of Chest Department, Bombay Hospital Said “Smoking increases risks for Preterm (early) delivery, Stillbirth (death of the baby before birth), Low birth weight, Sudden infant death syndrome (known as SIDS or crib death), Ectopic pregnancy, Smoking during pregnancy also causes complications with the placenta, (the organ through which nutrients pass from mother to foetus). These complications include placenta previa and placental abruption, conditions that jeopardize the life and health of both mother and child.”
Dr Nene further stated said, “Smoking equally predisposes men and women to lung cancer. However, in addition to smoking, indoor burning too plays a major role in making women prone to lung cancer.” He said indoor burning of unprocessed biomass fuels (wood, coal) is widely used for cooking and heating in many parts of our country and is associated with significant pollution. “Such pollution has been associated with multiple respiratory problems, including an increase in the incidence of lung cancer. Women who are exposed to this smoke from cooking and heating are more susceptible than men to lung cancer.”
“Passive smoking increases the risk of respiratory illnesses in children, including asthma, bronchitis and pneumonia. Passive adult smokers are at increased risk of a range of tobacco-related diseases, including lung cancer, COPD, poor asthma control, heart disease and stroke. It has been proven that passive smoking increases the risk of getting lung cancer, cervical cancer and bladder cancer,” concluded Dr Nene.