Smoking and the Risk of Lung Cancer
Smoking is a Direct Cause of Lung Cancer
Few people these days are unaware that smoking is a direct cause of lung, or pulmonary, cancer. In particular, cigarette smoking is associated with a specific form of pulmonary cancer called small cell carcinoma. Scientific studies conducted in the 1950’s clearly proved the association between pulmonary cancer and smoking. About 90% of pulmonary cancers can be directly attributed to smoking. The length of time smoked, in years, together with the number of cigarettes smoked are influential in deciding a smoker’s risk of eventually developing this deadly condition. Perhaps as many as one in eight smokers will eventually develop this cancer.
Other Causes of Lung Cancer
Non-smokers also develop pulmonary cancer, although the risks are less when compared with their smoking brethren. Often the causes involved in the development of lung cancer in non-smokers remain unknown. Second-hand smoke has been implicated as a cause in some cancers. Environmental hazards may also be important such as the build-up of radioactive radon gas in homes and asbestos. And finally, some individuals may have an inherited tendency to develop this cancer. Scientists have recently identified a gene that acts in concert with smoking to increase lung cancer risk. This same gene also renders the possessor more addicted to nicotine and so less likely to quit.
Lung Cancer is Hard to Cure
The longer you smoke the more you are at risk of developing the deadly disease that is lung cancer. The cure rate for lung cancer is depressingly low. Only 5% of those diagnosed can expect to be long-term survivors. The cancer not only affects the lung and ‘seeds’ from the original tumour become lodged in other locations such as the brain, bones and liver. Long-term survivors are those patients which are diagnosed early. If the tumour has not spread, then a cure is possible. Unfortunately most patients don’t realise they have cancer until it is too late.
And Still they Smoke
As many as a third of lung cancer sufferers continue to smoke following their diagnosis. This statistic illustrates very well the addictive nature of nicotine. Many smokers with lung cancer become fatalistic. They argue that it is too late to stop as the damage is already done. However, studies have shown that cancer sufferers who manage to quit respond better to treatment than those patients who don’t.
Few families today remain untouched by the blight that is smoking. I lost my father and both grandfathers to lung cancer. They were all heavy smokers and continued to smoke following their diagnosis. To my shame, and great regret, I also took up the habit whilst young. My greatest and hardest achievement in life occurred 21 years ago when I quit for good. Even today I occasionally crave for a smoke. Few realise, when they first take up the habit, how incredibly addictive nicotine is. The realisation only sets in when they try to quit.