Women who smoke are 45 per cent less likely to get screened for breast cancer, 47 per cent less likely to get screened for cervical cancer, and 29 per cent less likely to get screened for bowel cancer, compared to never smokers, according to research published in the BMJ Open.
Of the 89,058 women who participated, 52.8 per cent were never smokers, 40.8 per cent were former smokers, and 6.37 per cent were current smokers.
Their health and use of cancer screening services were tracked for an average of 8.8 years, during which time 7,054 cases of breast cancer, 1,600 cases of bowel cancer, and 61 cases of cervical cancer were diagnosed. Current smokers had lower odds of obtaining breast (OR 0.55; 95% CI 0.51-0.59), cervical (OR 0.53; 95% CI 0.47-0.59), and colorectal cancer (OR 0.71; 95% CI 0.66-0.76) screening compared with never smokers.
Former smokers were more likely than never smokers to receive regular screening services.
Failure to adhere to screening guidelines resulted in diagnoses at higher cancer stages among current smokers for breast cancer (OR 2.78; 95% CI 1.64-4.70) and colorectal cancer (OR 2.26; 95% CI 1.01-5.05).
The higher the daily tally of cigarettes smoked among both former and current smokers, the less likely these women were to use cancer screening services.
“Concern for personal health is the most common reason given for smoking cessation among former smokers and may explain why this health-conscious population seeks cancer screening more frequently than never smokers,” suggest the researchers.
“On the contrary, smokers are overly optimistic about their health and consistently underestimate the magnitude of their cancer risk,” they add.
Doctors should emphasise the importance not only of giving up smoking, but also of making use of cancer screening services in this group of high-risk women, they advise.