Smoking and Lung Cancer
The risk of lung cancer increases sharply with the amount smoked,Footnote 6 the number of years one has smoked,Footnote 7 and the earlier one had started smoking.Footnote 3 Lung cancer risk also increases with the age of the smoker.Footnote 7
Only 16% of people diagnosed with lung cancer are expected to be still alive 5 years after diagnosis.Footnote 9 There were 18,560 deaths from lung cancer in Canada in 2007.Footnote 10 Research has shown that in 2002, almost 80% of lung cancer deaths were due to smoking.Footnote 11
Among people who have never smoked, long-term exposure to second-hand smoke also causes lung cancer.Footnote 12In Canada, 252 non-smokers died in 2002 from lung cancer due to exposure to second-hand smoke.Footnote 11 The lung cancer risk from second-hand smoke exposure is 20% to 30% higher for those living with a smoker.Footnote 12
These health warning messages address lung cancer for cigarettes and little cigars:
What is lung cancer?
Lung cancer is the leading cause of death from cancer among both males and females. It is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the lung, leading to the formation of a tumour.
Lung cancer symptoms include cough, chest pain, weight loss and sometimes the spitting up of blood or bloody mucus.
Treatment for lung cancer can involve surgery, chemotherapy, radiation or a combination of treatments.
How does smoking increase the risk of lung cancer?
Some of the chemicals in tobacco smoke cause, initiate or promote cancer. Footnote 13 Footnote 14 These chemicals cause genetic changes in cells of the lung, which can lead to the development of lung cancer.Footnote 1
In addition, some of these chemicals inhibit and damage the normal cleaning process by which the lungs get rid of foreign and harmful particles. Smoke destroys an important cleansing layer in the lungs, which in turn causes a build-up of mucus. The result is "smokers' cough," an alternative method for the lungs to try to clean themselves.Footnote 15
The benefits of quitting
When people stop smoking, the risk of lung cancer starts to decrease. Ten years after quitting, the risk of lung cancer is about one-third to one-half of that of a smoker.Footnote 15
Quitting is more effective than other measures to avoid the development of lung cancer and other smoking-related diseases.
Need help to quit? Call the pan-Canadian quitline toll-free at 1-866-366-3667.
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