Smoking Linked with Cervical Pre-Cancer

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New joint research from teams at Trinity College Dublin and the Coombe has shown that women who smoke are at greater risk of HPV infection.

The work of the CERVIVA research consortium has recently demonstrated that women with a detectable nicotine metabolite called continine in their urine sample were at a higher risk of acquiring a human papilloma virus (HPV) infection than those who were not exposed to tobacco smoke.

Dr Martin from CERVIVA said “We were initially funded to look at better ways of managing women with cervical abnormalities – abnormal smears, essentially… We’ve been looking particularly at areas such as testing for human papilloma virus as a way of improving how we manage women with abnormal smears presenting in our colposcopy clinics.”

“Women presenting in the colposcopy clinics for further investigations were invited to participate,” explained Dr Martin. “A urine sample and a smear sample were taken and we looked for a very specific marker of nicotine exposure called cotinine in the urine of these women.  Women who smoke and who had high levels of these cotinine in their urine were at much greater risk of having a HPV infection, which is ultimately the cause of cervical cancer itself, and this was particularly evident in younger women. “

“We know that smoking causes a local immune suppression in the cervix and it does this by reducing the number of particular type of an immune cell called a langerhan cell in the cervix itself and it essentially makes it less able to clear those infections.

The study further underscored to women and clinicians that women who smoke are at a higher risk of developing a pre-cancerous lesion or invasive lesion, she concluded.