Medical Reading

Have A Smoke Free Holiday

May 27, 2017

Smoking cigarettes causes cancer and increases the risk of cardiovascular and other diseases, but there's even more bad news for men who smoke. They have an increased risk of experiencing erectile dysfunction, and the more cigarettes smoked, the greater the risk, according to a study by Tulane University researchers published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

Although erectile dysfunction, the consistent inability to achieve or maintain an erection sufficient for satisfactory sexual performance, is not a life-threatening condition, it compromises well-being and quality of life. The study results suggest that smoking prevention is an important approach for reducing the risk of erectile dysfunction.

A team of researchers led by Jiang He, professor and chair of epidemiology at the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, examined the association between cigarette smoking and erectile dysfunction in a 2000-2001 study in China involving 7,684 men. The researchers used questionnaires to assess the status of cigarette smoking and erectile dysfunction.

"The association between cigarette smoking and ED was found in earlier studies," says He. "However, most of those studies were conducted in patients with hypertension, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. What distinguishes this study is that it is the first to find this association among healthy men."

Jiang He, professor and chair of epidemiology, leads the team of researchers who examined the association between cigarette smoking and erectile dysfunction in men.

Those surveyed by the team were men between the ages of 35 to 74 who did not have vascular disease. The researchers also found that there was a significant statistical link between the number of cigarettes that the men smoked and the likelihood they would experience erectile dysfunction. Overall, an estimated 22.7 percent of erectile dysfunction cases among Chinese men might be attributable to cigarette smoking, according to the study.

"This study was conducted in China, but of course these results also apply to the U.S. population," says He.

More than 18 million American men -- nearly one in five -- experience erectile dysfunction, according to a study this year from the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University.

"There have been studies done in this country that show the same association between cigarette smoking and ED, but those were conducted in patients with diabetes, hypertension or cardiovascular disease. Our study shows that even in healthy men the association is very strong," He concludes.

Raising further caution flags about the dangers of starting to smoke cigarettes, the researchers found that even when cigarette smokers quit, their risk of developing erectile dysfunction did not decrease. The risk is statistically about the same for former cigarette smokers as for current cigarette smokers.

"This study really has a strong message for young men," He says. "It may get their attention if they know that smoking is associated with ED even in the healthy population. So the message is: Don't start."

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