Lung Cancer and Smoking

Passive smoking

Nine out of ten cases of lung cancer are caused by smoking making this one of the most preventable forms of all types of cancer.

It’s a disease which is on the increase with 1.2 million new cases being diagnosed each year. But thanks to widespread education campaigns about the dangers of smoking, doctors believe that the number of people diagnosed with lung cancer will soon start to drop off.

Lung cancer is a disease that can take 40 years to develop before diagnosis so the figures we’re seeing today are mostly down to people who started smoking back in the 1960s. Less people today are smoking so over the next 20 years or so it is hoped that the number of people being diagnosed with cancer will reduce.

Smoking and Lung Cancer Statistics

There will always be people for and against smoking. Those against cite the bleak health statistics while the pro-tobacco lobby acknowledges the risk but believes the picture isn’t quite as bad as the figures suggest.

But according to the medical profession the statistics are quite sobering. Around 50% of smokers will die prematurely and around 25% will die directly from lung cancer.

Unfortunately the risk of dying of lung cancer increases if you have been smoking for a long time and not necessarily from the number of cigarettes smoked each day. Somebody who smokes 40 a day for ten years is at less risk then someone who smokes 20 a day for 20 years.

Researchers believe that the younger you start smoking the more damage is done to the lungs. One study of ex-smokers revealed that those who started smoking under the age of 15 had twice as many abnormal cells in their lungs than people who started after the age of 20.

It’s believed that if someone stops smoking before they reach middle age then around 90% of risk attributed to smoking can be avoided.

How smoking causes Lung Cancer

It isn’t surprising that smoking causes lung cancer – after all there are 4,000 chemicals in a single cigarette. Inhaling these chemicals damages the way the lungs can clean themselves. The airways are lined with a layer of cells protected by a coating of mucus. Tiny hairs called cilia help move the mucus up from the lung thus removing any inhaled particles which my have been trapped. It’s this process which is damaged during smoking and the lung can no longer keep itself clean. This means that the carcinogenic (cancer-causing) chemicals in smoke can get trapped in the airway and infect other cells. Once the chemicals are in the body there is nothing to stop them altering perfectly healthy cells into cancer carrying ones.

It is also now known that passive smoking increases the risk of contracting the disease. A non-smoker who lives with a smoker is known to have twice the risk of contracting lung cancer than someone who doesn’t live with a smoker.

If the statistics are enough to make you quit smoking you’ll be encouraged to learn that after a week of not smoking your lungs begin to function more effectively and after 15 years as an ex-smoker your risk of contracting lung cancer is nearly the same as someone who doesn’t smoke.


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