- by Dr Murali Subramanian Oncology India
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- Feb 09 2017
Why does smoking raise cancer risk?
Smoking is one of the leading causes of cancer and death from cancer. It causes the cancers of lung, larynx, esophagus, mouth, kidney, throat, bladder, liver, pancreas, cervix, stomach, colon, and rectum. Researchers say there are more than 4,000 compounds in cigarette smoke. A majority of them are toxic, they are bad for us and damage our healthy cells. Some of them are carcinogenic- causing cancer.
Main Constituents of tobacco smoke:
Nicotine –It is not carcinogenic. However, it is really addictive. Smokers find it extremely hard to quit once they are hooked on the nicotine. Nicotine is a very fast-acting drug as reaches the brain within 15 seconds of being inhaled. If nicotine wasn’t present in cigarettes and other tobacco products, the number of people who smoke every day would go down drastically. The tobacco industry would collapse without nicotine,.
Carbon Monoxide - It is a poisonous gas that has no smell or taste. The body cannot differentiate carbon monoxide from oxygen and absorbs it in the bloodstream. If there is enough carbon monoxide inhaled, you can go into a coma and die. Carbon monoxide reduces the muscle and heart function, it results in fatigue, weakness, and dizziness. It is really toxic for babies still in the womb, infants and individuals with lung or heart disease.
Tar – This the main component that consists of several cancer-causing chemicals. When a smoker inhales cigarette, 70% of the tar from its smoke remains in the lungs. Instead of inhaling, blow the smoke through a handkerchief and you would notice there will be a sticky, brown stain on the cloth.
How does smoking cause cancer?
The main way in which smoking causes cancer is by damaging the DNA, including the main genes that protect us against cancer. Many of the chemicals constituted in cigarettes have proven to cause DNA damage, including benzene, benzo(a)pyrene, polonium-210 and nitrosamines. Other chemicals in cigarettes make it even worse. The chromium makes poisons like benzo(a)pyrene attach more strongly to DNA, shooting up the chances of serious damage. And chemicals like nickel and arsenic interfere with ability of body for repairing damaged DNA. This damaged DNA chains makes it even more likely that damaged cells will eventually become cancerous.
The people who smoke are also less able to handle toxic chemicals than those who have healthy lungs and blood. Chemicals in cigarette smoke make it much harder for smokers to neutralize or remove toxins and also make their immune systems less effective.
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