Does Smoking Cause Cancer? A Doctor Weighs In

    You may temporarily find relief when a puff of a cigarette dilutes your worries and takes you into a realm of pleasure, but this could  take a toll on your health (or even your life) in the long run. The good news is that in America, cigarette smoking has significantly declined from 23% to 14% over the years of 2000-2017 and is expected to decrease further in the coming years.  This decline can be attributed to the injurious nature of smoking. But what are the chances smoking actually causes cancer?  We’ll look at what research says. 

    The Statistics Of Smoking

    Numbers speak louder than words. Despite the declining trend of smoking, 2010 statistics have shown that the highest percentage of male deaths were due to tobacco use or smoking. Furthermore, deaths by lung-related illnesses  and associated cancers attributed to cigarette smoking account for about a whopping 81%.

    Why Do You Smoke?

    Are you a seasoned smoker? You might not even recall the reason why you started smoking in the first place. Most people start smoking at a young age. It can be because they have seen their parents smoke and considered it an acceptable activity. On the other hand, some find it an amusing sport. Others indulge in smoking under peer pressure, e.g. their friends told them to do so. One of these may also be your reason for indulging in smoking, but one thing may be sure – it is now a very real addiction.

    The Addiction Of Smoking

    Even though you try, your attempts to quit go in vain. If this is true for you, read on, because there is hope. If you’ve tried to quit, you’ll notice the symptoms of smoking withdrawal, which may include:

    • Sweating 
    • Inability to sleep
    • Nausea and abdominal cramps
    • Constipation
    • Depression and mood disturbances
    • Intense cravings for more smoking
    • Headaches and coughing 

    Nicotine: The Devil In The Smoke

    The withdrawal effect from trying to quit is attributed to the presence of nicotine in cigarette smoke. 

    Nicotine is a cancer-causing chemical that is found inside the cigarette smoke. This substance makes you addicted to cigarettes.

    Does Smoking Actually Cause Cancer?

    Now that we have established that smoking is addictive, we need to explain the harmfulness so that our facts are a strong motivator to assist with your quitting.

    Cancer And Smoking

    Cancer is the condition of the uncontrolled division of cells that invade the normal dividing cycle of cells. It may disseminate to different parts of the body via blood and lymphatic channels. It is a severely debilitating disease that results in a terrible life and eventually possibly early death.

    The Relationship Between Smoking And Cancer

    Smoking can cause various types of cancer, but the most prevalent one is lung cancer. According to the American Lung Association, smoking contributes to 80-90% of all lung cancer deaths in men and women. Cigarette smoking can cause cancers of the blood, the digestive canal (esophagus), kidneys, larynx and voice box, mouth and throat and even cancer of the bowels (small and large intestine and stomach). 

    Carcinogens In Cigarette Smoke 

    Cigarette smoke contains more than sixty well-established carcinogens (cancer-causing substances). This list includes polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), N-nitrosamines, volatile organic compounds and aldehydes. 

    How Can Carcinogens Affect The Body? 

    1. Formation Of DNA Adducts

    The DNA within everyone is considered as the  cell’s instruction manual. The metabolic activation of carcinogens may cause DNA adducts formation leading to an increased incidence of somatic mutations. DNA adducts are modified pieces of DNA (cancer-causing) formed by the covalent bonding of carcinogens to cell DNA. These mutations in the DNA result in decreased repair potential and higher chances of developing cancer. A 2016 study found that carcinogens in cigarette smoke can cause mutations in DNA.

    1. Oxidative Damage

    Some carcinogens result in the release of free radicals and oxidants that lead to DNA damage. This damage can eventually lead to carcinomas (which can cause cancer)

    1. Damage To Immune cells

    The components of cigarette and tobacco smoke weaken the defense system of the body. The carcinogens do this by attacking the B and T cells (white blood cells). Carbon monoxide, nicotine, cadmium and nitrogen oxides are responsible for this damage to the defense system that can cause cancer.

    So What Are The Chances Smoking Actually Causes Cancer?

    The chances are high. You can indeed acquire stomach, mouth, throat cancer or lung cancer for starters. It would help best if you quit smoking and get yourself screened for lung cancer. Screening for lung cancer is a must for those who:

    • Are aged between 55 to 80 years old
    • Have a history of heavy smoking and are currently smoking or have quit within the past 15 years

    How Can I Quit Smoking?

    The biggest hurdle to save yourself from smoking is the withdrawal effect of nicotine. Following tips may help you cope with withdrawal symptoms:

    • Try smoking cessation aids
    • Have some exercise and proper rest and sleep
    • Keep yourself distracted

    Smoking causes lung cancer. The carcinogens disrupt your DNA replication and obliterate the immune system, making you prone to developing cancer. You should quit smoking to avoid grave consequences.


    Alexandrov, Ludmil B., et al. “Mutational signatures associated with tobacco smoking in human cancer.” Science 354.6312 (2016): 618-622.

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