Tobacco Smoke

Smoking causes up to 30 percent of cancer deaths in the United States and Canada, making tobacco smoke the most lethal carcinogen in North America. Smoking is associated with cancer in the lungs, esophagus, respiratory tract, bladder, pancreas, and probably cancers of the stomach, liver, and kidneys.

The risk of cancer increases depending on the number of cigarettes smoked per day, the cigarette’s tar content, and how many years a person smokes. Starting to smoke while young significantly increases the risk of developing cancer. Each year in the United States, about 3,000 nonsmoking adults die of lung cancer caused by exposure to the smoke of others’ cigarettes, called secondhand smoke or environmental tobacco smoke. Nonsmoking spouses of smokers are 30 percent more likely to develop lung cancer than those married to nonsmokers. Breathing secondhand smoke also increases the risk of cancer in the children of smokers and in nonsmokers who work in smoky places, such as restaurants and bars. Cigars, pipes, and smokeless tobacco have also been implicated in increased risk for cancer. Cigars contain most of the same cancer-producing chemicals as cigarettes, and people who smoke cigars have a 30 percent higher risk of developing cancer than nonsmokers. Oral cancers occur more frequently in people who use smokeless tobacco, or snuff. Snuff users, for example, are 50 times more likely to develop cancers of the cheek or gum than nonusers.

Besides lung cancer, tobacco use also increases the risk for cancers of the mouth, lips, nasal cavity (nose) and sinuses, larynx (voice box), pharynx (throat), esophagus (swallowing tube), stomach, pancreas, kidney, bladder, uterus, cervix, colon/rectum, ovary (mucinous), and acute myeloid leukemia.

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