From a young age, we are told that smoking cigarettes cause cancer. But is this true? While there is a lot of bad information floating around the Internet these days, this question has a very clear answer: YES, smoking really does cause cancer.
The evidence is pretty conclusive that there is a causal link between ingestion of the chemicals contained in cigarettes and up to 15 different types of cancer. Smoking can cause other non-cancerous ailments and health issues as well.
Your body is always working to keep you healthy, and it is equipped with numerous defense mechanisms to deal with the harmful substances with which we come into contact. But the body cannot protect us from everything, and certainly not the vast amounts of chemicals inhaled by smokers over a period of years or even decades. Cigarette smoke contains over 5,000 chemicals, and at least 70 of them are carcinogenic.
When a person smokes, the chemicals enter the mouth, throat, and lungs, where they spread around and linger. The lungs directly interact with the circulatory system, as well, as providing oxygen to the blood through the capillaries. The substances in the smoke can damage the DNA in your cells, and make it harder for the body’s cells to repair broken genetic material. Over time, this damage to the DNA in various cells can ultimately make them cancerous, reproducing atypically and creating tumors.
Does Smoking Only Cause Throat and Lung Cancer?
The lungs and throat are the most commonly affected areas because smoke comes into direct contact with them. However, smoking is connected to other cancers as well, including cancer of the esophagus, bowel, kidney, stomach, mouth, ovaries, bladder, and cervix. Smokers also have a higher risk of a certain type of leukemia, which is cancer of the blood cells. What is more, in addition to these cancers, several other heart and lung diseases can be triggered by smoking.
What Other Factors Affect the Development of Cancer?
There are several factors that can contribute to cancer, but smoking is very prominent and is one that can be completely avoided. Another factor that can contribute to the development of cancer is an unhealthy diet, especially one that contains a lot of processed foods. Like cigarettes, processed foods usually contain many unhealthy chemicals that are added to prevent food from spoiling. In contrast, whole foods contain many beneficial substances that can rejuvenate the body and speed up healing, or even discourage cancers from developing.
Obesity, stress, excessive alcohol intake, and sun exposure have also been shown to be associated with higher levels of different types of cancer.
Should I Quit?
Long-term smokers often wonder whether the damage has already been done or whether quitting could help. The answer is easy: the longer and more frequently you smoke, the greater the risk of cancer, so you can always minimize your risk by quitting now. There are smoking aids and support groups that can help, and the health benefits go far beyond simply avoiding cancer.
How Can a Cancer Center Support Me?
If you’ve been diagnosed with cancer, it is imperative to get plugged into a cancer center and establish care with a medical oncologist. Your oncologist can evaluate your lifestyle, perform imaging studies, and recommend treatment options that can help you fight your cancer and potentially increase overall survival.
At Beacon Cancer Care, care is more comprehensive than simply textbook medical intervention. In addition to being able to provide many medical treatments in-house, such as immunotherapy, oral chemotherapy, and radiation therapy, Beacon may be able to provide eligible patients access to innovative treatments available through Beacon’s research program and our various clinical trials. Beacon also offers numerous supportive services, including services that can help with nutritional needs, rehabilitation, financial questions, and even care coordination. As part of our whole-person approach to care, we can also make referrals to experts who can assist with smoking cessation, as well as mental health therapists and support groups.
In the United States, around 30 million adults smoke cigarettes regularly. This significantly increases this population’s susceptibility to a range of diseases, including many types of cancer. If you have received a cancer diagnosis, it is important to visit a cancer center and discuss treatment options with a medical oncologist. Call us at Beacon Cancer Care to schedule your initial consultation.