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Paper Chase

Cigarette smoking and risk of stroke in middle-aged women.

N. Engl. J. Med.. Apr 14, 1988;318(15):937-41.
Colditz GA, Bonita R, Stampfer MJ, Willett WC, Rosner B, Speizer FE, Hennekens CH.

Channing Laboratory, Department of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA.


It is known that cigarette smoking is associated with increased risk of both thrombotic and hemorrhagic stroke among men. To test for such an association among women, we examined the incidence of stroke in relation to cigarette smoking in a prospective cohort study of 118,539 women 30 to 55 years of age and free from coronary heart disease, stroke, and cancer in 1976. During eight years of follow-up (908,447 person-years), we identified 274 strokes, comprising 71 subarachnoid hemorrhages, 26 intracerebral hemorrhages, 122 thromboembolic strokes, and 55 strokes about which information was insufficient to permit classification. The number of cigarettes smoked per day was associated positively with the risk of stroke. Compared with the women who had never smoked, those who smoked 1 to 14 cigarettes per day had an age-adjusted relative risk of 2.2 (95 percent confidence interval, 1.5 to 3.3), whereas those who smoked 25 or more cigarettes per day had a relative risk of 3.7 (95 percent confidence interval, 2.7 to 5.1). For women in this latter group, the relative risk of subarachnoid hemorrhage was 9.8 (95 percent confidence interval, 5.3 to 17.9), as compared with those who had never smoked. Adjustment for the effects of relative weight, hypertension, diabetes, history of high cholesterol, previous use of oral contraceptives, postmenopausal estrogen therapy, and alcohol intake did not appreciably alter the association between cigarette use and incidence of stroke. These prospective data support a strong causal relation between cigarette smoking and stroke among young and middle-aged women.