How do cigarettes cause lung cancer? In addition to containing many toxic gases, the tar found in your favorite brand has a lot of cancer-causing substances (carcinogens) as well as carcinogens which increase the production of cancer cells.

This leads to the development of small cell (oat) carcinoma, the deadliest form of lung cancer, and squamous cell cancer – both of which are usually found in smokers.

“Your risk of lung cancer increases with the number of cigarettes you smoke each day, the number of years you smoke, the amount of smoke you inhale, and the amount of tar and nicotine in the cigarettes you smoke,” said Dr. David E. Larson, editor-in-chief of the “Mayo Clinic Family Health Book.”

While lung cancer is primarily a male problem, many women now have the disease, probably because the number of female smokers has increased. In the United States, lung cancer has surpassed breast cancer in terms of cancer deaths in women.

“The higher rates of tobacco-related cancers among men reflect the fact that in the past, more men than women smoked, and smoked heavily. In recent years, the proportion of smokers among males has been steadily decreasing in many developed countries. Unfortunately, the proportion of smokers among women has been steadily increasing all over the world,” according to Drs. Adriano V. Laudico, Divina B. Esteban, Corazon A. Ngelangel, and Lilia M. Reyes in “Cancer Facts and Estimates.”

“With many more women smoking than ever before, the number of women with lung cancer has increased at an alarming rate, so that smoking is now responsible for 75 percent of all lung cancers in women. The cancer rate for female smokers is 67 percent higher than for nonsmokers,” said Marrion Morra, assistant director of the Yale Comprehensive Cancer Center at Yale University in Connecticut, and Eve Potts in “Choices: Realistic Alternatives in Cancer Treatment.”

Even nonsmokers aren’t spared from the onslaught of lung cancer. The US Environmental Protection Agency estimates that between 500 and 5,000 cases of lung cancer appear each year in nonsmokers as a result of inhaling someone else’s smoke. The side stream smoke inhaled by a nonsmoker has a higher percentage of tar, nicotine, and other poisonous gases – all of which contribute to lung cancer.

“The tobacco industry likes to tell people that there are other causes of lung cancer. But there is no denying the fact that smoking is a major cause of the disease. I don’t think we have to look for other causes,” said Dr. Calixto Zaldivar, former director of the Lung Center of the Philippines.

Other risk factors for lung cancer include exposure to industrial carcinogens such as asbestos, chromium compounds, radioactive ores, nickel, arsenic, and other irritating substances.

“A worker in these kinds of industries who smokes faces an even greater risk. If you are over 40, smoke two packs a day, and/or are in an occupation that is thought to be cancer producing, you should have frequent medical checkups,” Morra and Potts said.

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