Smoking is a public health problem and is responsible for 33% of tumors and 22% of cancer deaths, according to the Spanish Society of Medical Oncology (SEOM). That’s because smoking causes 85 to 90% of lung cancers. In addition, there are 15 other types of cancer that are also directly related to smoking, such as cancer of the larynx, oropharynx, bladder, pancreas, mouth, esophagus, liver and bile ducts and stomach, among others.
Why smoking causes cancer
Tobacco smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals, of which more than 250 are highly toxic, and more than 50 components that cause disease. The latter are responsible for the formation of the carcinogenic processes in different places in the human body.
When a person smokes, these chemicals enter the bloodstream and spread to all parts of the body through the blood. Many of these substances, found in tobacco smoke, are capable of damaging DNA. They can cause cancer cells to multiply abnormally and result in a tumor.
For smokers, the risk of developing cancer is determined by a number of factors, such as the date you started smoking, the number of cigarettes consumed per day and the physical condition of the person. However smoking doesn’t just affect the smokers, but also those who are exposed to tobacco smoke in their closest environment. Health experts reiterate that there is no safe level of smoke exposure.
How the body reacts to quitting
While there are many reasons to quit smoking, undoubtedly the most important one is the positive health impact. Quitting reduces the risk of developing cancer or other diseases caused by smoking.
In the short term, here are some of the positive effects our bodies experience:
- Within minutes of quitting, heart rate and blood pressure decrease
- Within hours, your blood oxygen level increases
- Within a few weeks, lung capacity increases and the sense of smell and taste gradually recover
In the long term, the effects of not smoking have an even more positive impact on our health:
- One year after quitting smoking, the risk of respiratory diseases (such as asthma or bronchitis) is reduced
- Two years later, the risk in terms of cardiovascular disease is also reduced.
- At five years, the risk of certain types of cancer (such as of the airways, cervix or bladder) is reduced by half
- Ten years after quitting, the risk of dying from lung cancer drops to about half the risk of someone who still smokes.
- It also lowers the risk of developing cancer of the larynx (voicebox) and pancreas.
Health professionals, especially those in primary care, play an important social awareness role to help their patients quit smoking. However, in the fight against tobacco and its consequences, further clinical research is needed, and the results need to be applied to the creation of new measures. The ultimate goal must be to protect those who are most vulnerable: children and the chronically ill.