Tobacco and Cancer: Understanding the Link and Taking Action | Max Hospital

Tobacco and Cancer: Understanding the Link and Taking Action

By Dr. Sameer Khatri in Cancer Care / Oncology

Mar 04 , 2024 | 2 min read

Cancer is a growing health challenge globally and within our country, impacting lives across diverse socio-economic and geographic strata. In India, the burden of cancer is on the rise, with an estimated 14,61,427 new cases projected in 2022 alone. Alarmingly, approximately one in nine individuals in India is expected to confront a cancer diagnosis during their lifetime, highlighting the urgent need for comprehensive understanding and action against this pervasive disease. Among the various factors contributing to this rising cancer burden, tobacco stands out as a formidable and preventable cause, intricately linked to numerous types of cancer.

Tobacco remains the leading cause of preventable disease and death worldwide. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies both cigarette smoke and smokeless tobacco as Group 1 carcinogens, signifying their direct link to cancer in humans. The complex concoction of harmful substances in tobacco, with nicotine and carcinogens at the forefront, not only induces addiction but also wreaks havoc on cellular structures, leading to mutations that may cause cancer.

Also, Read - Smoking and Lung Cancer: Unraveling the Connection and Quitting Resources

Lung cancer, notably, holds the top spot among males in India, closely tied to the rise in smoking habits. The risk of lung cancer in smokers versus nonsmokers is staggering. However, the danger extends beyond just smokers; secondhand smoke poses a significant risk as well. Exposure to environmental tobacco smoke raises the risk of lung cancer by about 20 per cent among nonsmokers. Moreover, the lingering residue from tobacco smoke, known as "thirdhand smoke," presents a potential danger, particularly to children, persisting on surfaces long after the smoke has dissipated.

Beyond lung cancer, tobacco consumption significantly elevates the risk of cancers in the throat, mouth, and various other parts of the body. Oral cancer, the second most common cancer in males, is heavily linked to the use of smokeless tobacco products like gutka and paan masala, accounting for 90% of oral cancers. The risk of developing cancer is proportional to the number of cigarettes smoked per day and the duration of smoking.

Also, Read -  Oral Cancer and Tobacco: Treatments, Diagnosis & Prevention

Thankfully, tobacco-related cancer is preventable, and the benefits of quitting smoking are profound. Studies consistently show that individuals who quit smoking significantly reduce their susceptibility to various cancers. Quitting smoking at any age offers substantial health benefits, improving quality of life, reducing the risk of premature death, and even adding up to a decade of life expectancy. Notably, the risk for lung cancer declines with smoking cessation, and the longer a person remains off cigarettes, the more their risk diminishes.

To support smoking cessation efforts, a range of therapies has been developed for tobacco-dependent individuals. These include behavioural therapies and FDA-approved pharmacotherapies such as nicotine replacement therapy. Research underscores that smokers who combine behavioral treatment with cessation medications are more likely to quit successfully.

Also, Read - Say No to Tobacco

In conclusion, the intertwining of tobacco and cancer demands a multifaceted approach to effective mitigation. Understanding how tobacco instigates cancerous transformations underscores the urgency of targeted interventions.