SAN FRANCISCO--For 15 years, there has been a clear, epidemiologic
link between cigarette smoking and an increased risk of cervical
cancer, Steven Waggoner, MD, said at a poster presentation at
the Society of Gynecologic Oncol-ogists meeting.
"This holds true even after controlling for other confounding
factors, such as age, method of birth control, number of children,
and whether other cervical infections are present," he said.
About 10 years ago, some investigators identified nicotine in
the cervical mucus of women who smoked cigarettes. The surprising
part of that finding, he said, was that the nicotine level in
the cervical mucus was substantially higher than the subjects'
Designing a study to correlate the amount of nicotine taken in
through smoking to the amount of nicotine and other potentially
carcinogenic substances found in cervical mucus posed a challenge,
Dr. Waggoner said, because nicotine levels in the cervical mucus
vary greatly among smoking women, ranging from barely detectable
to extremely high.
"There are big differences among people who smoke cigarettes.
Some smoke more than others, some inhale more deeply, and some
smoke cigarette brands that have more nicotine than others,"
Nicotine patches, which have been available for several years
to help smokers kick the habit, provided Dr. Waggoner with a standard
and predictable vehicle of nicotine exposure in women.
The University of Chicago study included 9 women using nicotine
patches as part of a smoking cessation program. They agreed to
stop smoking, use the patch, and have blood tests and vaginal
examinations to measure nicotine levels.