New Research: Cigarette Smoking Could Raise Your Risk of This Surprising Cancer by 30%

Updated: Jun. 28, 2024

G.I. researchers report an evident scientific cause for a rising type of cancer that occurs a little lower down in the body than the lungs.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), smoking remains the leading cause of preventable death in the US, with 28.3 million US adults currently dealing with a smoking habit. Decades of research show smoking can contribute to a host of health problems, including lung cancer, heart disease, stroke, fertility issues and more.

Of these, increasing research suggests lung cancer isn’t the only cancer cigarette smoking may be to blame for. New research suggests a clear connection to another high-risk type that occurs a little lower down in the body.

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A June 2024 peer-reviewed study led by gastrointestinal specialists at Harbin Medical University in China and published in Scientific Reports aimed to narrow in on whether there appeared to be a direct link between unhealthy lifestyle choices such as cigarette smoking and the risk of colorectal cancer. The researchers analyzed data coming from various regions of the world gathered on 3,022 colorectal cancer patients and 174,006 people without the disease. The analysis focused on specific genetic markers linked to unhealthy lifestyle choices, including smoking, obesity, alcohol consumption and physical activity.

The researchers assessed the apparent colorectal cancer risk from four smoking behaviors: The age when individuals started smoking, whether smoking became habitual, how many cigarettes per day they smoked, and whether they had successfully quit.

The researchers report the results: “Our study found a potential association between smoking and an increased risk of colorectal cancer.” Based on their findings, people who smoked a greater number of cigarettes each day, and those who started smoking routinely before adulthood, seemed to show a significantly higher risk of colon cancer. Smoking a greater number of cigarettes daily increased the risk by 30%, while simply starting to smoke raised the risk by more than three times.

Interestingly, they cited Cuban research based on a substantial sample which suggested the relationship could be cause-and-effect, thanks to an acid that occurs in the gut called taurodeoxycholic acid. The researchers suggest smoking can lead to increased levels of this bile acid: “A recent study indicated that smoking may increase the intestinal levels of taurodeoxycholic acid (TADC) by inducing gut microbiota dysbiosis,” the researchers report, activating pathways “leading to tumorigenesis,” or the development of tumors.

The study also found that a higher waist-to-hip ratio appeared to raise the risk of developing colorectal cancer by 38%.

Though analyzing patients’ genetic markers did not reveal a connection between colon cancer and physical activity or alcohol consumption, previous research does indicate that an active lifestyle and limiting alcohol can help reduce cancer risk.

Even small changes, like cutting back on the number of cigarettes you smoke each day, can help protect your body. Quitting smoking entirely is, of course, the best option, but every cigarette you don’t smoke is a step towards better health.