Experts at Hamad Medical Corporation’s (HMC) Tobacco Control Centre have warned that smoking is one of the leading causes of colorectal cancer, the third most common cancer worldwide as March is marked as the the Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.
Dr Ahmad al-Mulla, head of HMC Tobacco Control Centre, explained that many epidemiological studies indicate that smokers are at an increased risk of developing colorectal cancer.
While several factors can lead to the development of colon cancer, including inherited genetic mutations, unhealthy lifestyles such as eating a low-fibre or high-fat diet and leading an inactive lifestyle, smoking can also negatively affect disease progression and response to treatment.
Tobacco use has been associated with increased cancer growth and metastasis of tumour cells in patients with cancer, thus increasing the risk of death due to cancer.
“Studies indicate that colorectal cancer-related death rates are significantly higher in smokers compared to non-smokers. Studies also showed that the amount and duration of smoking can play a role in increasing the risk of developing colon cancer, as the incidence of this type of cancer decreased among those who quit smoking early (before at least 10 years) compared to those who continued to smoke. Other studies have found that women who smoke are at more risk of developing colon cancer than male smokers,” added, Dr al-Mulla.
Commenting on the importance of quitting smoking as early as possible and its role in preventing colorectal cancer, Dr Jamal Abdullah, smoking cessation specialist at HMC's Tobacco Control Centre said that the sooner an individual quits smoking, the less likely he is to develop colorectal cancer.
Dr. Abdullah added that there are many cancer- causing ingredients in tobacco that can damage the DNA. Over time, the ability of the body to repair this damage decreases. However, the body starts to dispose of all toxic tobacco ingredients if the smoker quits this harmful habit early. “Available evidence is strong enough to suggest that the risk of developing colon cancer as a result of smoking is high. The American Cancer Society recommends that smokers, and especially those with a family history of colon cancer, should get screened for colon cancer at the age of 40 years compared to the normally recommended age of 50 years for colon cancer screening,” noted Dr Abdullah.
Dr Abdullah stressed the importance of quitting smoking immediately for those diagnosed with colorectal cancer. He explained that continuing to smoke after a cancer diagnosis, regardless of cancer type, can have very serious consequences in terms of increasing the pace of tumour growth, negatively impacting the patient’s response to treatment, and increasing the risk of developing more tumors. He noted that several studies have indicated a link between smoking cessation and the increased likelihood of survival for people with cancer compared to those who have been diagnosed with cancer but did not quit smoking.