Smoking Increases Lung Cancer Risk
Interestingly enough, it seems a foregone conclusion that everyone knows that smoking increases lung cancer risk. After all, it says so right on the side of the package. Since the 1960’s there has been a Surgeon General’s warning on the side of every pack of cigarettes produced in the United States that pretty much says “this product can give you lung cancer”. Of course, this is paraphrasing what is printed there, but you get the point. Smoking increases lung cancer risk significantly over the risk of a non-smoker.
So with the dangers of smoking pretty much well known to everyone, why do people continue to light up? As a former smoker, I believe I am qualified to answer that question because I have experienced the addiction. Nicotine is highly addictive and people with nicotine addiction tend to ignore the dangers. It’s pretty easy to ignore the dangers when you are young and healthy. You get the “it won’t happen to me syndrome”. Once you start the habit your brain gets used to having its nicotine boost. When you aren’t able to get it you have this craving. Once the craving starts you really need that nicotine hit or you become irritable and moody. No wonder they say nicotine is as addictive as heroin.
Even when the government decided to start taxing smoking out of existence, it didn’t work. In my opinion, and from reading a number of pro-tobacco tax websites, the stated aim was to reduce tobacco use. However, buried in the platitudes about caring about tobacco use it usually speaks about how the added tax can raise revenues. Nothing excites a politician more than being able to get more of your money to spend. So has the raising of tobacco taxes really helped decrease tobacco use? That seems to depend on who you believe. The anti-tobacco groups cite studies that say it works. The other side has studies that say it is not the most effective way to deal with smoking. Either way, cigarettes continue to be easy to get and tobacco use is still relatively stable.
So we all know smoking increases lung cancer risk. We know that smoking is the leading contributor to the development of lung cancer. Besides lung cancer, smoking can also contribute to the development of COPD and heart disease. Children who live with a smoker are at greater risk to develop asthma and have more asthma attack risk when they live with an adult that smokes inside.
A few facts about how smoking increases lung cancer risk:
- Amount of smoking plays a role- Any amount of smoking can ultimately lead to lung cancer. However, variables like how long you have smoked, how many cigarettes you smoke daily, and how deeply you inhale can all affect your risk to develop lung cancer. If you smoke a pack or more a day for most of your life, you significantly increase your risk of developing lung cancer.
- Quitting lowers your risk of developing lung cancer- When you stop smoking for good you lower your risk of developing lung cancer. Within a few days of quitting your lungs go into repair mode and you actually can regain some lung function as the inflammation in your airways decreases. If you haven’t yet developed other lung diseases like COPD you slow the decline in lung function that goes along with smoking. It’s not possible to say with certainty whether quitting will keep you from getting lung cancer, but it will decrease the odds.
- Women are just as much at risk- Women are just as likely to develop lung cancer as men from smoking. In fact, more women die from lung cancer each year than from breast cancer. The American Cancer Society estimates that for 2018 the new cases of lung cancer will be almost equal in men and women.
- Second-hand smoke also increases the risk of developing lung cancer in those exposed to it. In addition to the lung cancer risk, children are at higher risk of developing asthma when one or both parents smoke around them in enclosed spaces like the home or car. If you must smoke and you have children, at least go outside and don’t smoke with them in the car.
- If you are pregnant and smoke your baby has a higher risk of being born prematurely.
- Smoking can be attributed to causing up to 90% of lung cancer cases.
As you can see, smoking increases lung cancer risk not only in the smoker but in those who are exposed to second-hand smoke. As a respiratory therapist and former smoker, it would be hypocritical of me to preach to anyone. In fact, as long as tobacco is a legal substance I believe every adult is capable of making his or her own decisions about whether or not to smoke. I also believe all decisions a person makes should be based upon facts. Once you have the facts you can then make the decision about what you do as an adult. But you do need the facts. Now you have them.