Breaking: Don't smoke!

A new reason -- did you need one? -- to stop smoking.

Published November 21, 2006 8:30PM (EST)

Some medical news that probably won't knock you out of your socks with surprise: It turns out that smoking cigarettes increases your risk for cervical cancer in situ (cancer on the surface of the cervix) if you have human papillomavirus type 16.

The new study, led by doctors from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, determined that HPV-16-positive smokers were 14 times more likely to contract cervical cancer in situ than were HPV-negative smokers. For nonsmokers, having HPV increased their chances of developing the cancer by 5.9 times.

"Our study would imply a synergistic action between HPV and smoking that would greatly increase the likelihood of women developing cervical cancer if they are HPV-positive smokers. This would put them in a risk group worthy of careful monitoring," said study leader Dr. Anthony S. Gunnell.

So, unsurprisingly, especially given how common HPV is, quitting smoking is a good idea. And that's not something I say lightly, since I am six weeks into ending a 13-year habit myself. I know how hard it is. Believe me. Quitting makes you feel like crap for a while and it's hard and I miss cigarettes every day. But smoking is so bad for you. I know. So I'm trying.

If you smoke and are completely sick -- like I was for years -- of people telling you you should quit when you already know perfectly well that you should quit and you would if you could but you can't, then consider this just one more piece of inspiration to get you through the day when the time to stop does arrive.

And good luck.

By Rebecca Traister

Rebecca Traister writes for Salon. She is the author of "Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election that Changed Everything for American Women" (Free Press). Follow @rtraister on Twitter.

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