Postmenopausal women who smoke have higher androgen and estrogen levels, leading researchers to speculate that cigarette smoking could influence the risk of diseases such as breast and endometrial cancer.
Smoking is a well established risk factor for chronic diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes, but earlier studies examining the relationship between smoking and sex hormone levels have yielded inconsistent results. This new study, published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism suggests that sex hormones may provide one plausible mechanism through which cigarette smoking influences chronic disease risk.
"The observed increase in sex hormone levels with cigarette use suggests that tobacco smoke, apart from its direct toxic and carcinogenic effects, may also influence chronic disease risk through hormonal mechanisms," said study author Judith Brand, of University Medical Center, Utrecht.
Brand added that study participants who were current smokers had higher circulating levels of androgens and estrogens, while former smokers who had quit within 1-2 years had sex hormone levels the same as never smokers. "The good news is that the effect of cigarette smoking appears reversible, as an almost immediate reduction in sex hormone levels was seen in women who quit using cigarettes."
"Obviously, quitting smoking has major health benefits such as prevention of cancer, respiratory and heart diseases," she noted. "Our research suggests that smoking cessation may have additional effects by modifying hormone-related disease risks."
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Source: Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism