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(Drug information on 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' bloodstream levels.
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," he said.
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.