Smoking and Cancer: Key Things to Know

Dr Gunes Dr Hossami

Dr. Adem Günes & Dr. Abdulla El-Hossami

Smoking and Cancer: Key Things to Know

Most people know that smoking is harmful to health. Despite this, it remains a very popular habit throughout the world. According to the latest statistics, one in five adults still smoke, with men more likely to indulge than women.

While many ignore the risks of smoking and the negative press, it is thought to contribute to some 8 million deaths each year. Along with alcohol, it remains one of the biggest preventable risk factors that contribute to developing diseases such as cancer.

Smoking is the main risk factor associated with several cancers. It’s not surprising when you consider that just one small puff of smoke contains thousands of harmful chemicals. At least 69 of these have been demonstrated to have a direct link to cancer.

The good news is that the body begins to repair itself just 6 hours after smoking a cigarette for the last time and the risk of getting cancer reduces after this.Indeed,it is evident there is a link between smoking and cancer.

Smoking has been linked to 16 different types of cancer, some with greater risk than others. For example, stopping smoking greatly reduces your risk of developing lung cancer.

Smoking is the leading preventable cause of lung cancer and, in the USA alone, it is linked to 80-90% of lung cancer deaths.

Lung cancer remains one of the most serious conditions and the prognosis is often compounded by the lack of symptoms in the early stages of the disease which make it difficult to get an early diagnosis.

The research suggests that if people didn’t smoke at all, lung cancer would be a much rarer condition indeed.

More than 53,000 people are diagnosed with oral cavity or oropharyngeal cancer in the USA each year and 1 in 5 will die because of it. While rarer than lung cancer, mouth cancer has several different risk factors associated with it.

Some 80% of people diagnosed with oral cancer are smokers or use tobacco for chewing. For people who both drink alcohol regularly and smoke, the risk can be even higher.

More than 80,000 new cases of bladder cancer are diagnosed each year and the primary risk factor is smoking. An individual is three times more likely to develop the disease if they are a regular smoker and men have a higher vulnerability than women.

A quarter of diagnosed cases of pancreatic cancer are thought to be caused by smoking. According to the current research, an individual that smokes is twice as likely to develop the disease compared to someone who has never smoked.

The good news is that the risk of developing pancreatic cancer drops dramatically once the individual stops smoking.

The liver is responsible for getting rid of toxins in the body and is a vital organ that can easily be damaged by poor lifestyle choices. In the USA, some 30,000 people die from liver cancer each year, with men affected twice as much as women.

It’s thought that a fifth of liver cancer cases are caused by long-term smoking. When an individual combines heavy drinking with smoking, their risk is greatly increased.

Cancer of the larynx (the voicebox) affects more than 10,000 people each year in the USA, the majority being men. Both alcohol and tobacco are big risk factors in the development of this disease.

An individual who smokes 25 cigarettes a day for 40 years could see their risk of getting cancer of the larynx increase by as much as 40 times.

There are more than 27,000 new cases of stomach cancer in the US each year and the average age at diagnosis is 65. Smoking doubles the risk of developing the disease and other factors such as poor diet and being overweight can also contribute.

The other organs that can develop cancer from smoking cigarettes are the nose and sinuses, upper throat, kidney, bowel, ovaries, bladder, and cervix. Smoking is also one of the causes of leukemia.

The combination of thousands of different chemicals in tobacco affects the human body in several ways.Cigarette smoke is found to release some five thousand chemicals. Out of these, at least seventy are found to cause cancer. These chemicals, while smoking, enter the human body and spread to other parts.

It can, for example, alter our DNA. Benzopyrene which is present in cigarette smoke damages the DNA that is responsible for protecting cells from cancer.

Other chemicals in smoke can interfere with how our cells repair DNA damage. If a mutation occurs that may lead to a cancer tumour, these chemicals may ensure that the cancer continues to develop rather than being repaired.These chemicals can also damage the parts of the DNA that protects the human body from cancer.It is the build-up of DNA damage in cells over time that can lead to developing cancer.

Smoking remains the biggest preventable risk factor that can lead to several cancers. Stopping smoking can have a significant impact on the potential for developing a life-threatening disease such as lung or mouth cancer, or cancer of other organs of the body, whatever the age of the individual or how long they have been using tobacco.

The human body has got designed to deal with some damage. But it cannot cope with the destructive chemicals of a large amount of tobacco smoke. The amount a person smokes and the length of time one has been smoking affects the cancer risk. The more cigarettes one smokes each day, the higher the cancer risk. Hence to reduce the risk, the first good step would be to start reducing the number of cigarettes one smokes each day. Indeed, the number of years one spends smoking; can affect the cancer risk more strongly. So, it is essential to plan how to stop smoking entirely. The sooner one can stop smoking, the lower the risk of cancer. Everyone that smokes can benefit by stopping to smoke. It is never too late to take this first step of stopping to smoke completely, even for those who have smoked cigarettes for years.

Even light, occasional and social smoking can cause cancer. A safe level of smoking does not exist at all. Smoking 1 to 10 cigarettes daily can highly increase the risk of smoking-related cancers and other diseases. Smoking less than one cigarette per day is harmful. Studies have found that smoking can reduce the lifespan of people significantly compared with people who have never smoked. Yes, there are cases of cancer caused because of passive smoking too. The best thing to stay healthy is to avoid smoking, and if anyone has got into this habit, they should stop smoking.

There is medical help available always to support people who desire to stop smoking. One can start by contacting their GP or family doctors to get such support. Being smoke free can prevent all kinds of cancers. Indeed, people who have availed such support from medical practitioners have reversed their risk of cancer to a great extent.

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