UH plays key role in colon cancer research

It’s a study that made headlines for being the first to show a link between smoking and an increased risk for colon cancer, especially in women.

The lead researcher of that study is now teaming up with the University of Hawaii’s Cancer Center.

Dr. Inger Gram, a professor at the University of Tromso in Norway, just completed a four-decade long study on why the number of colon cancer cases has exploded around the world for men and women.

“Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in the world as well as in the U.S. for both men and women. And it’s the second cause of cancer death in the U.S.,” Dr. Gram said.

The study confirmed for the first time medically that lighting up will increase a person’s chance of getting colon cancer, but the big surprise was what the study found out about women.

“It was very surprising that women who smoke less than men get more colon cancer than men,” Dr. Gram said. “For instance, women who smoke less than 20 years, they already had an increased risk of colon cancer while men that had to smoke more than 40 years before they had the same increased risk for colon cancer.”

Dr. Gram is visiting the UH Cancer Center for the next three months to continue her research about women smokers’ higher risk of colon cancer than men, especially within Hawaii’s diverse ethnic groups.

“And also, of course, through the additional, exciting thing is if we can look to see the difference between the ethnic groups. Of course, our Norwegian study only had Caucasians,” Dr. Gram said.

Dr. Gram says the UH Cancer Center’s location also helps with the research.

“The University of Tromso, where I work, that’s the northern-most university in the world, but Hawaii is the most remote university in the world,” Dr. Gram said.

Her research of local ethnic groups is expected to be presented to the American Association of Cancer Research in November.

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