Smoking and Colon Cancer


Quitting smoking can decrease your risk for developing colon cancer.

Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. Still, more than 34 million Americans choose to smoke cigarettes. Even brief exposure to smoke can be dangerous. One cigarette contains over 600 ingredients, 7,000 chemicals, 69 cancer-causing agents and many other toxins.


How Smoking is Directly Linked to Colon Cancer

When you smoke, you are increasing your risk for colon cancer. Inhaling chemicals and toxins into your body invites free radicals to damage DNA and mutate healthy cells. Free radicals can cause the development of precancerous polyps in the large intestine, which can become cancerous and eventually cause colon cancer. Smoking can also cause more aggressive polyps known as flat adenomas, and these can be present in both light and heavy smokers.

Not only do smokers have a higher risk of developing colon cancer, they have an increased risk of dying from the disease. According to one study of patients who had been treated for colon cancer, those who had smoked in the past were 23 percent more likely to die or have their cancer return within three years than those who had never smoked. Also, people who smoked at the time of colon cancer diagnosis were 47 percent more likely to have a recurrence of colon cancer or to die from the disease.

Family history has a significant influence on whether you are at higher risk for colon cancer. However, there is enough evidence to support that smoking puts you at equal risk for developing colon cancer as having a first-degree relative with colon cancer.

Make a Plan to Quit Smoking

If you are a smoker, you can get help with quitting. The American Cancer Society has effective programs to help you quit and take a step toward a cancer-free life. Every system in your body will improve when you make this important choice. For helpful resources on how to quit smoking, visit the American Cancer Society’s website.