Smoking is usually linked to lung cancer, but a new study has found that it is associated with head and neck cancers as well, in both men and women, regardless of the anatomic site.
However, researchers from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) have revealed that this link between current and past cigarette smoking and malignancies of the head and neck plays a greater role in the development of head and neck cancer in women than men.
Cancers of the head and neck include cancers of the larynx, nasal passages/nose, oral cavity and pharynx. The team found that these cancers are three-times more common in men than women, and men are twice as likely to die from head and neck cancer then women.
Dr. Neal Freedman from the NCI and co-investigators analyzed data from 476,211 men and women. They wanted to assess the gender differences in the risk for cancer in the head and neck sites.
Analysis confirmed that these cancers are more common in men than women. However, they found only 45 percent of these cancers could be attributed to smoking in men, while 75 percent of these cancers could be attributed to smoking in women.
"Incidence rates of head and neck cancer were higher in men than in women in all categories examined, but smoking was associated with a larger relative increase in head and neck cancer risk in women than in men," the authors said.
Study authors concluded that to reduce the incidence of head and neck cancers, public health efforts should be aimed at eliminating smoking in both women and men.
The study is published in Cancer, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society.