Scientists are discovering more compelling reasons why quitting smoking is among the best ways to improve your health.

A recent study has demonstrated a link between smoking and increased male and female hormones in post-menopausal women. These increased hormones may boost the risk for diseases like breast cancer, endometrial cancer, and type 2 diabetes.

The study, published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, examined blood samples from 2,030 postmenopausal women aged 55 to 81 years. Study participants were categorized as "current," "former," or "never" smokers based on their responses to questions regarding cigarette use.

Researchers found that current smokers had higher circulating levels of androgens (male hormones including testosterone) and estrogens (female hormones), while former smokers who had quit within one to two years had sex hormone levels the same as participants who had never smoked.

Scientists have known for some time that increased hormone levels are associated with certain cancers, type 2 diabetes, and other diseases. Smoking has been associated with increased cancer risks, cardiovascular disease, and other significant health factors for a long time. Earlier studies examining the relationship between smoking and sex hormone levels, however, have been inconsistent. This new cross-sectional study in a population-based sample of postmenopausal women suggests that sex hormones may provide one plausible mechanism through which cigarette smoking influences chronic disease risk. It also reveals that the effect of smoking appears to be reversible since the hormone levels of post-menopausal women who had quit smoking were the same as those who never smoked.

More research is needed to make direct conclusions about the link between smoking, hormones, and disease risk. But, with other studies indicating smoking may increase breast cancer in younger women, and countless studies linking smoking with lung cancers and cardiac disease, this research provides mounting evidence in the case for quitting smoking.

Kicking the Habit

What's the best way to quit smoking? There are many ways to go about reaching this important goal. The American Heart Association (AHA) offers a comprehensive online program to help smokers quit. It includes step-by-step advice and a variety of quitting options (from cold turkey to step down methods, both with and without medication) as well as ways to control urges. AHA recognizes how difficult it is for many people to break the habit, but one of the most encouraging messages the AHA delivers is this: Your health will start improving as soon as you quit.

Talk to your doctor about which quitting options are most appropriate for you and your health.




American Heart Association
Quitting Smoking

The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism
October 1, 2011 vol. 96 no. 10 3184-3192
Cigarette Smoking and Endogenous Sex Hormones in Postmenopausal Women
Judith S. Brand, Mei-Fen Chan, Mitch Dowsett, Elizabeth Folkerd, Nicholas J. Wareham, Robert N. Luben, Yvonne T. van der Schouw and Kay-Tee Khaw