Talk with the Doc: Chewing tobacco cancer and health risk update

Dr. Jim Surrell, Journal columnist

In a previous column, a number of years ago, I reviewed the very significant cancer risk for all persons who choose to chew tobacco. The purpose of this column is to give you an update on these very health issues that will come from making the choice to use chewing tobacco.

It is vitally important to know that there are about 30 chemicals in chewing tobacco that have been proven to cause cancer. The most common deadly life-threatening “smokeless” tobacco cancers are oral cancers (mouth, cheeks, gums, lips, and tongue), throat cancer (esophagus), as well as stomach and pancreatic cancer. Any of these chewing tobacco caused cancers can kill you and/or make your ongoing day-to-day life very miserable. For example, would you want your surgeon to have to remove your cancerous tongue or your lips? When you truly consider the very high proven cancer risks from chewing tobacco, a tobacco chewer must very seriously consider these and make the decision to stop all chewing tobacco use. If one truly loves their significant other, their children, their grandchildren, and others, why would anyone choose to continue the very high cancer risk of chewing tobacco?

Further, there is now evidence from research studies that show the use of “smokeless” tobacco will result in increased risk for cardiovascular disease, including heart attacks and stroke. Other serious conditions also include inflammation of the gums (gingivitis), along with increased tooth decay and actual loss of teeth.

The following is from recently reported research from the highly regarded Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center in New York. I highly recommend that anyone who chooses to use chewing tobacco to review the following information from Roswell Park.

If you think chewing tobacco is a healthier alternative to smoking, think again. Unfortunately, that theory is misguided. While it’s not linked to lung cancer like smoking, chewing tobacco and other smokeless tobacco products put users at an increased risk for several head, neck and mouth cancers, including squamous cell carcinoma as well as esophageal and pancreatic cancer. For some reason, some people think that chewing tobacco is not as risky as smoking, but in a lot of ways it’s actually even more risky because there is a heavy concentration of tobacco, nicotine and other additives. Chewing tobacco offers a very high risk for mouth cancers, says Sunita Manuballa, DDS, Assistant Professor of Oncology, at the Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center. Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common form of skin cancer and can appear almost anywhere in the head and neck area. Chewing tobacco users are especially at high risk for developing squamous cell carcinoma inside their mouth.

Here is the bottom line that I strongly encourage any chewing tobacco user to seriously consider. Choosing to use chewing tobacco is a very dangerous and deadly lifestyle choice, and yes, it is a personal choice! Everyone needs to understand that all tobacco products are very harmful and cause cancer, and the use of any tobacco products will absolutely ruin a person’s health. There is no safe level of tobacco use, and tobacco abuse is the single worse thing that an individual can do to ruin their long-term health. The predicted life expectancy of a tobacco user is about 14 years less than that of a non-tobacco user. If you choose to chew tobacco, know that you are taking a very serious health risk. If you are chewing tobacco, I strongly urge you to make the following healthy lifestyle choice. Choose never to use chewing tobacco.

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.Contact Dr. Surrell by email at sosdietdoc@gmail.com.


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