The detrimental effects of tobacco use are well-documented and extensive, impacting numerous organ systems and increasing the risk of various diseases. Tobacco use is a major risk factor for various types of cancer. It is estimated that tobacco use is responsible for about one-third of all cancer deaths in western countries. The chemicals present in tobacco smoke can damage DNA and other genetic material in our cells, leading to the development of cancer.
Cigarettes, cigars, pipes, and smokeless tobacco products all contain harmful substances, including nicotine, tar, and various carcinogens. When tobacco is burned and inhaled, these substances enter the lungs and are absorbed into the bloodstream, affecting various organs and tissues throughout the body.
Dr Meenu Walia, Senior Director of Medical Oncology, at Max Hospital, Patparganj explains how tobacco causes cancer and other risks involved in consuming tobacco.
Also read: World No-Tobacco Day 2023: How Tobacco Can Affect Your Lungs? Check 7 Daily Practices To Quit Smoking
World No-Tobacco Day: How Can Tobacco Cause Cancer?
Dr Walia explains, smoke from cigarettes, cigars, and pipes has at least 70 chemicals that can cause cancer. PAH, N-nitrosamines, aromatic amines, 1,3-butadiene, benzene, aldehydes, and ethylene oxide are probably the most important carcinogens because of their carcinogenic potency and levels in cigarette smoke.
She further explains, every time you breathe in that smoke, those chemicals get into your bloodstream, which carries the chemicals to all parts of your body. Many of these chemicals can damage your DNA, which controls how your body makes new cells and directs each kind of cell to do what it is made for. When DNA is damaged, a cell can begin growing out of control and create a cancer tumor. Poisons in cigarette smoke can weaken the body’s immune system, making it harder to kill cancer cells.
World No-Tobacco Day: Types Of Cancer Caused Due To Tobacco
Dr Walia explains tobacco is most commonly linked to lung cancer. It’s true that smoking causes almost nine of every 10 cases of lung cancer, but tobacco use can cause cancer almost anywhere in your body. Tobacco use causes many types of cancer, including cancer of the larynx (voice box), mouth, food pipe, throat, bladder, kidney, liver, stomach, pancreas, colon and rectum, and cervix, as well as acute myeloid leukemia.
“People who use smokeless tobacco (snuff or chewing tobacco) have increased risks of cancers of the mouth, esophagus, and pancreas. Mouth cancer and esophageal cancers are also strongly associated with active smoking, especially in conjunction with the use of alcohol,” said Dr Walia.
World No-Tobacco Day: Risks Involved In Consuming Tobacco
“Tobacco can be consumed in various forms such as smoking, chewing, or snorting. Smoking tobacco in the forms of cigarettes, bidis, cigars or hookah can not only cause cancers, but various other diseases such as chronic bronchitis, and emphysema. It increases the risk of heart disease, which can lead to stroke or heart attack,” said Dr Walia.
“Smoking has also been linked to tuberculosis, certain eye diseases, and problems of the immune system, including rheumatoid arthritis, and pneumonia. Smokeless tobacco use can cause gum disease, tooth decay, tooth loss, and the formation of white or gray patches inside the mouth called leukoplakia which can lead to mouth cancer. Smokeless tobacco use during pregnancy increases the risk for early delivery and stillbirth,” said Dr Walia.
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