Smoking and cancer just go together

Jim Surrell, MD

It is a very well-established medical fact that smoking causes at least 90 percent of all lung cancer. As you would expect, this very high risk for lung cancer increases with the number of cigarettes smoked and also increases over time as a person continues to choose to smoke.

The bad news for smokers is that smoking not only causes lung cancer, but it also increases the risk of breast, prostate, bladder, and colon and rectal cancer.

The good news for smokers is that there are now medications that can help them quite smoking, and they will then significantly decrease the risk of getting various different types of life-threatening cancers.

Tobacco smoke contains over 4,000 chemical compounds, many of which are considered toxic. It is known that there are at least 43 components in cigarette smoke that have been proven to cause cancer.

A person who smokes one pack of cigarettes per day has a risk for the development of lung cancer that is 25 times higher than a nonsmoker. It is also known that cigar and pipe smoking also causes lung cancer, although the risk is not as high as from cigarette smoking.

However, this risk is also very real and very significant. Cigar and pipe smokers have a risk of lung cancer that is at least five times that of a nonsmoker. The overall life expectancy of a smoker is 14 years less than a non-smoker.

Second-hand smoke, or the inhalation of tobacco smoke by nonsmokers who share living or working quarters with smokers, is a well-established risk factor for the development of lung cancer.

Research has shown that nonsmokers who reside with a smoker have a 24 percent increase in risk for developing lung cancer when compared with nonsmokers who do not reside with a smoker. An estimated 3,000 lung cancer deaths occur each year in the U.S. from exposure to second-hand smoke.

Here are the very positive things that happen when a person quits smoking. The risk of developing lung cancer decreases each year following smoking cessation as normal cells grow and replace damaged cells in the lung. In former smokers, the risk of developing lung cancer continues to decline each and every year that they do not smoke.

If lung cancer isn’t enough to scare anyone enough to stop smoking, consider the following. A female smoker has a 16 percent increased risk for breast cancer, and a male smoker has a 22 percent increased risk for prostate cancer from smoking.

Both male and female smokers have an 18 percent increased risk of colon and rectal cancer from smoking. Further, 40 percent of all bladder cancer is caused by smoking.

Bottom line: Do whatever it takes to stop smoking now! Avoid second-hand smoke! You will dramatically improve your overall health and significantly reduce your risk for many of the following common cancers, including lung, breast, prostate, bladder, and colorectal cancer. All smokers should talk to their healthcare provider about what they can do to stop smoking now!

EDITOR’S NOTE: Dr. Jim Surrell is the author of “The ABC’s For Success In All We Do” and the “SOS (Stop Only Sugar) Diet” books. He has his practice at the Digestive Health Clinic at U.P. Health System-Marquette. Requests for health topics for this column are encouraged. Contact Dr. Surrell by email at