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Cigar smoking heightens risk of cancer, researchers say

Cigar smokers are twice as likely as nonsmokers to get cancer of the mouth, throat and lungs, researchers reported Thursday in the latest warning about the dangers of one of the hottest trends of the '90s.

The smokers also run about 1 1/2 times the risk of all smoking-related cancers together and are more likely to develop heart disease or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.The study, published in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine, was conducted by Dr. Carlos Iribarren, an epidemiologist at the Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program in Oakland, Calif., who examined the medical records of 1,546 regular cigar smokers and 16,228 nonsmokers from 1971 through 1995.

Most of the cigar smokers smoked fewer than five a day.

The study expanded on one described by The Associated Press last year, when Iribarren presented data about 225 cigar smokers to the American Heart Association.

The risks aren't as high as they are for cigarette smokers because cigar smokers don't usually inhale the smoke and hold it in their lungs.

Cigarette smokers have about three times as high a risk of coronary heart disease as nonsmokers, 10 times the risk of lung cancer and 20 to 25 times the risk of cardiac lung disease, Iribarren said.

"But our study shows conclusively that there are very serious health consequences associated with chronic cigar use," he said.

Surgeon General David Satcher, who has been trying to get the Federal Trade Commission to require warning labels on cigars like those on cigarettes, said: "Cigar smoking seems to have become a fad. The implication is that people don't think its dangerous. This is more very solid evidence of the dangers of cigar smoking."