It’s believed that smoking is responsible for 80% to 90% of all symptoms of lung cancers. But now a new study shows that smoking (including dangerous second hand smoke) might also contribute to other, non-lung cancers, more so than anyone ever thought before.
Using data from the National Center for Health Statistics, a team of researchers compared death rates from lung cancer to death rates from other cancers and found that smoking may have led to over 70% of cancer deaths among men in Massachusetts in 2003.
The lung and other cancer death rates kept in line from year to year (data from 1979 to 2003 were used), especially in men 30 to 74 years old – and this suggests that the cancers have the same cause.
“The fact that lung and non-lung cancer death rates are almost perfectly associated means that smokers and nonsmokers alike should do what they can to avoid tobacco smoke,” explains Bruce Leistikow an adjunct professor of public health sciences at the University of California, Davis.
“It also suggests that increased attention should be paid to smoking prevention in health care reforms and health promotion campaigns.”
The reason smoking causes lung cancer (and perhaps other cancers too) is that the smoke itself has carcinogenic chemicals in it.
As these chemicals are put into the lungs, year after year, they cause damage to the DNA that combines with oxidative stress and inflammation to promotes both the start and growth of tumors.
The DNA damage, and the inability of the body to fix it, is what causes malignancy, i.e. cancer.
Because lung cancer in its early stages is difficult to detect and presents with virtually no symptoms, by the time the disease is found it’s typically advanced. The five year survival rate for lung cancer is 15% – certainly not a good number.
This is why the medical community is so adamant about keeping people from smoking in the first place, or helping smokers to quit.
How long you smoke (and how much) has an impact on your chances of developing lung cancer.
If you stop smoking, your chances for lung cancer go down steadily as the damage to your lungs is repaired and contaminating particles are gradually removed from the lung tissue.
Passive smoke, living or working with a smoker, can also be a cause of lung cancer in nonsmokers.
Research in the U.S., U.K., Europe and Australia has shown the risk from passive smoke, and recent work has found passive smoking to be potentially even more dangerous than direct smoking. Avoid this type of smoke at all costs.
As If Lung Cancer Weren’t Enough… Smoking Likely Causes Other Cancers Too continuedSo even though medical science has examined other potential cancer causes, such as diet and contamination from the environment, this research suggests that smoking is more likely to be the culprit behind cancer developing.
The authors believe that the association between cancer death rates over a 25-year period is proof positive that more effort should be given to avoiding tobacco smoke, both for smokers and non-smokers alike to prevent symptoms of lung cancer from developing.
Preventing young people from starting is of particular importance. The UC Davis work appears online in the November 24, 2008 issue of BMC Cancer and calls for better tobacco control efforts.