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Turns Out Secondhand Smoke, Not Curiosity, Can Kill a Cat

Study underscores the threat to humans, especially children

WEDNESDAY, July 31, 2002 (HealthDayNews) -- Even having nine lives is no protection against secondhand smoke.

Cats who live with people who smoke are more than twice as likely as other cats to develop a deadly form of cancer called feline lymphoma, says a study by scientists at Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine and the University of Massachusetts.

The study appears in tomorrow's issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology.

The finding provides compelling evidence of the need for further study of the link between secondhand smoke and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in humans, which is similar to lymphoma in cats, the study authors say.

"We believe the feline exposure patterns to environmental tobacco smoke may mimic those of young children living in households where adults smoke and where the children inhale tobacco smoke or ingest particulate matter by mouthing contaminated objects," says lead author Elizabeth R. Bertone, an epidemiologist at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

The study looked at 180 cats treated at Tufts Veterinary School's Foster Hospital for Small Animals between 1993 and 2000. Eighty of the cats were treated for lymphoma; the rest were treated for renal failure.

The authors adjusted for age and other factors and concluded that cats exposed to any household environmental tobacco smoke had 2.4 times greater risk of lymphoma than cats who lived with non-smokers.

The risk increased with longer exposure. Cats subjected to at least five years of secondhand smoke were 3.2 times more at risk for lymphoma than other cats.

The number of smokers in a house also made a difference. One smoker in a home increased a cat's risk by 1.9 times, while two or more smokers made a cat 4.1 times more likely to develop lymphoma.

Cats living in homes where people smoked a pack or more of cigarettes a day were 3.3 times more at risk than cats in smoke-free homes.

More information

To learn more about the dangers of secondhand smoke in the home, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

SOURCE: Tufts University, news release, July 29, 2002
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