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Hawaii playing role in colon cancer research

By Paula Akana
Published On: May 13 2013 05:46:00 PM HST

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S. And now a 14 year study has pegged women smokers as those with the greatest risk for colon cancer.

HONOLULU -

According to the American Cancer Society, nearly 143,000 Americans will be diagnosed with colon cancer this year.  More than 50,000 people will die from it.

Now, a solid link between colon cancer and smoking.  But, more specifically, showing a great risk for women smokers.

Inger Torhild Gram conducted the study.  She's a visiting professor at the University of Hawaii Cancer Center.

"Women who smoke less than 20 years that already had an increased risk of cancer while men, they had to smoke more than 40 years before they had the same increased risk of colon cancer," said Gram.

Specifically, the study showed female smokers had a 19 percent increased risk compared to non-smokers while male smokers had an 8 percent increased risk.

Gram says they do not know why women are more vulnerable to the disease, but says the study is significant.

"Colorectal -- that is third common cancer in the world as well as in the U.S. for both men and women," said Gram. "And it is second cause of cancer death in the U.S.  Of course, the number one killer is lung cancer and now we know that colon cancer is number two which is also smoking-related."

The good news is if you stop smoking, the risk goes down.  Colon cancer is also very treatable with proper screening.

The 14-year study involved 600,000 men and women in Norway.  But, that study only involved Caucasian participants.

In their next phase of research, Gram and her colleagues here will use data from the UH Cancer Center's multi-ethnic cohort study to see if the same results show up in other ethnicities.

Gram is a professor at the University of Tromso in Normway, but she has come to the UH Cancer Center on three sabbaticals to work with researchers here.

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