For those asked to name diseases caused by smoking, usually the first thing that comes to mind is lung cancer. However, research links smoking to cancers in all parts of the body. Smoking also contributes to the risks of contracting many other major diseases.
Cancers Caused by Smoking *
Here are the organs that get cancers, which are diseases caused by smoking as identified by the American Cancer Society:
- Bone Marrow – Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML)
- Colon and Rectum
- Nasal Cavity – Nose and Sinuses
- Oral Cavity – Lips, Mouth, and Tongue
The American Cancer Society reports that 87% of deaths from lung cancer for men and 70% of lung cancer deaths for women come from smoking. For men and for women, lung cancer is the number one cause of death from cancer. Of all types of cancer, lung cancer is very difficult to treat. When cancer starts in the lungs, it quickly metastasizes (spreads) to other parts of the body. Once the cancer has already spread, removing the lungs does nothing to remove the cancer from the other parts of the body. This is why lung transplantation is not an option for those with lung cancer. The American Lung Association says the chance of living more than five years after a diagnosis of lung cancer is less than 20%.
Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML)
This cancer of the blood begins in the bone marrow. Cells that would normally turn into helpful white blood cells change into cancerous cells instead. It has the ability to spread to other organs including the liver, the lymph system, the brain, the spinal cord, and the testicles in males.
The bladder is similar to a strong flexible balloon made of multiple layers that increases in size to hold urine. Bladder cancers usually start in the layer that is the innermost one. This layer is the urothelium. It contains cells that are transitional, meaning they are in a phase of change. When cancer occurs, these transitional cells turn into cancerous tumors that can then grow into the deeper layers of the bladder.
This cancer is limited to females and starts in the cells that line the cervix, which is located in the bottom part of the womb. The cells in an area called the transformational zone are in the place where normally healthy cells can change from pre-cancerous to cancer cells.
The colon is part of the gastrointestinal system that connects the lower intestine to the rectum. Colon and cancer in the rectum starts with pre-cancerous polyps, which are growths on the inner lining. They grow slowly and have no symptoms. If left undetected, some may eventually change into cancer cells.
The esophagus connects the throat to the stomach. This cancer is more likely to occur in men than in women and usually comes from smoking tobacco. The esophagus has multiple layers. Most of these cancers begin in the lining that is innermost and then spread to other layers.
Another name for this cancer is renal cancer. Usually, this cancer shows up as a single tumor in one kidney, but sometimes there is more than one tumor or tumors in both kidneys. These tumors eventually cause kidneys to fail. Because lots of blood passes through the kidneys, it is easy for this type of cancer to spread to other parts of the body.
The larynx is the “voice box.” Smoking cigarettes or other tobacco products is the most likely cause of this cancer. People who have the larynx surgically removed use a device they hold in front of the neck that simulates the process in normal speech where the larynx vibrates. Their voice sounds automatic and robotic.
Nose and Sinuses
This area of the body is the “nasal cavity.” Smoking is a risk factor for developing cancer in this area. Many types of cancers can form in the bone, cartilage, fibrous cells, mucosa, and muscles in this area. Even melanoma, which is a skin cancer, can appear inside the nasal cavity.
Oral cancers show up in the mouth, on the lips, under and on the tongue. Even cigar smokers who never light them and do not inhale the smoke get oral cancers from holding the tobacco in their mouths. Cigarette smoking creates a constant risk exposure to this area that is similar to the danger for the lungs.
Women get this cancer in their ovaries. Even though only about 3% of cancers that women get are ovarian, this is the number one cancer killer found in the reproductive system of women. The reason for this is only 20% of ovarian cancers have early diagnosis when treatment is easier.
The pancreas is right behind the stomach. This organ makes the digestive enzymes that help the stomach to digest food. This type of cancer killed Steve Jobs at the age of 56. Steve Jobs did not smoke cigarettes, however as Network World reported, he admitted to smoking a lot of marijuana, which also carries cancer risk.
This is cancer of the throat in the uppermost part behind the nose. The medical term for this type of cancer is Nasopharyngeal. This cancer is noticeable when it invades the lymph nodes at the back of the neck, making them larger. Associated with this type of cancer, people may experience ear infections, headaches, nasal blockage, numbness or pain in the face, and blurred or double vision.
The problem with stomach cancer is it is hard to detect until it has already spread to other parts of the body. Early detection results in finding only about 20% of this cancer because so many things can cause the early symptoms.
Those are only the cancers that cigarette smoking causes. Cigarette smoking causes many more diseases that are serious. Others on the top ten worst diseases reported by the American Lung Association are:
- Lung Cancer – This is the number one killer of the diseases caused by smoking as mentioned above.
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) – Cigarette smoking causes 80% of COPD. With COPD, it becomes very difficult to breathe. It is the third most frequent cause of death in America. Just walking across the room leaves a person exhausted. People with COPD feel trapped in a dysfunctional body. They can barely do anything and constantly struggle for the next breath. Moving about makes them gasp for air.
- Heart Disease – The number one killer in America is heart disease. Smoking is a contributing factor in heart disease because it causes arteries to be blocked or to become narrow. Because of cigarette smoking, less oxygen and blood flows into the heart. Smoking does permanent damage to the heart.
- Stroke – Victims of a stroke suffer from slurred speech, paralysis, damaged brain function, and possibly death. Smoking causes strokes by its negative impact on the arteries, much like the arteries in the heart. Except with a stroke, smoking affects the arteries carrying blood to the brain. When the brain does not get enough oxygen, part of it dies. Stroke is number four on the list of killers in America and the number one cause of disability in adults.
- Asthma, Bronchitis, and Emphysema – Similar to COPD, asthma is about not being able to breathe. Whereas COPD is a steady state of feeling like one is suffocating, asthma comes on as an attack. When a person suffers an asthma attack, they suddenly have great difficulty breathing. In America, 25 million people have asthma and smoking cigarettes increases the severity of the disease. Bronchitis is a chronic lung infection characterized by constantly coughing. Emphysema causes the painful phenomena of not being able to breathe out. With emphysema, it is hard to exhale in order to take the next needed breath.
- Female Reproduction Problems – Smoking reduces fertility in women, making it harder for them to have healthy babies. Smoking also causes ectopic pregnancy. When this happens, the egg tries to grow in the wrong place and it may cause death if not treated.
- Babies are Premature – When a woman smokes while pregnant, the baby is smoking along with her. Babies born too early or with low weight at birth have serious health risks. Sometimes they do not survive.
- Diabetes – Smokers get Type 2 Diabetes 30% to 40% more often than non-smokers do. Other complications include damaged nerves, kidney disease, and circulation problems to the lower extremities, which sometimes leads to amputation.
- Cataracts and Blindness – Smoking increase the chance of developing cataracts and going blind from age-related macular degeneration.
- Cancers in all Parts of the Body – As discussed above, many cancers in other parts of the body are a possible consequence of smoking.
With all the smoking diseases, it is amazing that anyone would still do it. These are terrible life-debilitating diseases, causing a great deal of suffering. The American Cancer Society points out that a study done by the Center for Disease Control found that men lost on average 13.2 years of their life expectancy from smoking. Women lost on average 14.5 years of life due to smoking.
The good news is that those who quit before reaching forty years-old gained back 90% of the life potential lost to diseases caused by smoking. Wise young people never start smoking in the first place. However, no matter what age someone quits, it reduces risk of serious disease and death. There are many ways to quit smoking for those still smoking. Smokers should immediately seek help and quit. If you’ve already quit smoking, take a deep breath and be happy to be alive!