Why Cigarettes are a Woman's Worst Enemy
Here are some compelling reasons to quit smoking.
Sure, cigarettes can harm anybody, men and women alike.But some of smoking's
ill effects, from ectopic pregnancy to premature menopause, are reserved for
women only. This November 19 is the American Cancer Society's 22nd Great
American Smokeout. If you haven't decided togive up smoking yet, here are some
compelling reasons to quit now.
Smoking Increases Your Risk of Cervical and Rectal Cancer
Not only can smoking cause a variety of cancers in both men and women,it
puts women at higher risk of cervical cancer, according to the American College
of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). A Danish study publishedin the April
21, 1999 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer finds that
premenopausal women who smoke are six times more likely to developrectal cancer
than those who don't.
Smoking Worsens Your Period
According to the ACOG, women who smoke experience more severe premenstrual
symptoms and have a 50 percent increase in cramps lasting two or more days.
Smoking Damages Your Fertility
Smoking affects practically every phase of conception, according to
VickiSeltzer, M.D., vice president for women's health services at North
Shore-LongIsland Jewish Health System in New York. "Smokers have a greater
risk ofnot ovulating, and it is also less likely that a fertilized egg will
implantin the uterus. Smokers who receive in vitro fertilization are less
likelyto be successful." Seltzer also notes that nicotine interferes with
thefunction of the fallopian tube and can hinder an egg from traveling
normallyto the uterus, which can lead to an ectopic or tubal pregnancy --
Smoking Hurts Your Unborn Baby
"When you smoke during pregnancy, you poison the fetus," says
Benjamin Sachs, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Harvard Medical
School. "Carbon monoxide has a greater affinity for fetal tissue than for
adult tissue, and when nicotine crosses the placenta it speeds up the [baby's]
According to the ACOG, smoking increases a pregnant woman's risk of
miscarrying by 39 percent and heightens the chances of other serious
complications, including placental abruption (when the placenta separates from
the uterine wall), placenta previa (when the placenta covers the opening of the
uterus) and stillbirth.
Many studies have pointed to maternal smoking as the most preventable cause
of low birth weight. The breast milk of smokers can carry nicotine to a
suckling baby. And a 1995 report in the Journal of Pediatrics found that
infants exposed to tobacco smoke are nearly three times more likely to die from
sudden infant death syndrome.
Smoking Ages You
You've probably noticed that smokers develop wrinkles earlier than
nonsmokers. What often goes unnoticed is that smoking hastens menopause by one
to two years. "Nicotine interferes with the blood supply to the ovary, and
if you decrease blood supply to any organ, you decrease its function," says
Sandra Carson, M.D., professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Baylor College
of Medicine in Houston. Estrogen is produced in the ovaries, which "could
explain why smoking brings on earlier menopause," Carson says. Cigarettes
can lead to early osteoporosis, too, adds Carson: many studies have shown
smoking significantly reduces bone mineral density.