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Do E-Cigarettes Pose a Threat for Colon Cancer Risk?

From gum to patches to lozenges, the smoking cessation market has grown into a booming billion dollar industry, with the latest product to hit the shelves being the e-cigarette. With the same look and feel as real cigarettes, the e-cigarette is said to be cleaner, less harmful and more effective in helping smokers kick the habit. But do e-cigarettes pose a risk for developing colon cancer? Experts say it’s too soon to tell.

Medical research has well established that smokers have a higher risk of developing colon cancer and a higher risk of dying from colon cancer. In fact, 12 percent of all colon cancer deaths can be attributed to smoking (Source: NCBI). Smokers who want to improve their health by giving up traditional cigarettes may see e-cigarettes as a safe alternative, but recent studies suggest that there may be cause for concern.

A recent laboratory study, led by UCLA professor Dr. Steven M. Dubinett, found that the nicotine-laced vapor from electronic cigarettes promoted the development of cancer in human lung cells, similar to the way that tobacco smoke does. In the study, researchers modified human lung cell samples to have genetic mutations, which are associated with an increased risk for cancer. The cells were then grown in a liquid medium that had been exposed to e-cigarette vapor for four hours, while similarly treated cells were grown in a medium that had been exposed to cigarette smoke. The results showed that both sets of cells exhibited changes associated with cancer.

Dubinett emphasized that the findings were preliminary and did not establish a link between e-cigarettes and cancer. He further added that isolated cells may respond differently than organs in the human body (Source: New York Times). Although the results of the study are not conclusive, they do indicate that further research is required to fully understand the effects of e-cigarette vapor.

Of course, while e-cigarettes may not be entirely harmless, they do carry the potential benefit of helping smokers quit. A new study performed by British researchers found that people who wanted to quit smoking were 60 percent more likely to succeed with e-cigarettes rather than nicotine gum or patches. The same 60 percent success rate held true when compared with smokers who gave up cigarettes cold-turkey (Source: WebMD). While e-cigarettes may not be a safe ongoing habit, they can be a helpful stepping stone towards a healthier, smoke-free lifestyle.

For now, the safest and most effective method to prevent smoking-related colon cancer is to give up smoking entirely. Visit Smokefree.gov for tips and tools to help you quit. Additional steps to prevent colon cancer can be found at StopColonCancerNow.com.