Since there are quite a few people reading this blog and most of them are my friends I decided to make use of my position as blogger/geneticist and tell you something about lung cancer and other cancers associated with smoking.
1. Tobacco smoke contains over 4000 chemicals, 69 of which ARE KNOWN to cause cancer (carcinogens)
2. Nicotine not only keeps smokers “hooked” but may also contribute to cancer formation directly
Nicotine is a substance that travels quickly through the bloodstream to the brain in a matter of seconds. The nicotine addiction is a lot like heroin and cocaine addiction.
Recent papers published in Nature Genetics identified a cluster of genes coding for the nicotine receptors that are associated with lung cancer. It could be that carriers of a mutation in the receptor gene smoke more because they are more addicted to nicotine. But it has also been found that binding of nicotine to its receptor in the lung leads to more proliferation of the cancer cells.
3. Carcinogens in tobacco smoke produce genetic mutations
One of the genes that prevents genomic mutations (and the onset of cancer) is p53, a tumor suppressor gene, which prevents cells from dividing uncontrollably. Mutations in p53 make it non-functional => formation of tumors. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in tobacco smoke cause breaks and mutations in the p53 gene. One single cell with damages DNA is enough to cause cancer!!!
4. Smoking accounts for 30% of all cancer deaths
By smoking you increase your odds of developing not only lung cancer but also EVERY OTHER TYPE OF CANCER out there! Not to mention heart disease, obesity, diabetes, sexual dysfunctions and stroke.
5. Heavy smokers have 20 times higher chances of developing lung cancer
If you smoke around 20 cigarettes a day for 10 years you have 2000% more chances of getting lung cancer. If you smoke less than that the chances diminish but they’re still higher compared to never smokers. The sad part is that for ex-smokers cancer can appear even 10-20 years later.
Almost 90% of lung cancer patients are smokers but not all smokers develop lung cancer. This is due to a genetic predisposition of some people towards cancer development and probably better defense mechanisms of the body against carcinogens in others.
6. Almost all cancers will eventually kill you, but lung cancer is by far the #1 killer among cancers
7. Lung cancer has a higher invasive capacity compared to other cancers (it forms metastases much quicker)
The most dangerous aspect of cancer is the tumor’s ability to spread to other areas of the body, invade other vital organs and shut them down. Usually it’s the metastases that kill cancer patients in the long run, not the primary cancer.
Lung cancer cells (tumor cells) are very good at invading other tissues and lymph nodes. They do it in a much shorter period of time compared to, say, thyroid cancer which metastasizes much slower.
8. Lung cancer in early stages is discovered very rarely. Most lung cancers are in an advanced stage when diagnosed
The earlier a cancer is discovered, the higher the chances of survival. But lung cancer shows almost no symptoms in early stages and when people go to the doctor the cancer is usually too advanced (stage III or IV).
9. The 5-year survival rate for lung cancers is less than 20%
In Canada women have a 18% chance to survive for 5 years after being diagnosed with lung cancer. Men have a 13% chance. Meaning that there’s more than 80% chance that you’ll die in LESS THAN 5 YEARS after diagnosis. As a comparison, women diagnosed with breast cancer have a higher than 86% chance of living for more than 5 years after diagnosis.
10. Life after lung cancer diagnosis is not peachy!
After a patient has been diagnosed with lung cancer, depending on the stage of the cancer he can undergo surgery(advanced stage patients cannot have surgery). Surgery means either lobectomy (removal of 1 lobe of the affected lung), or pneumonectomy (removal of an entire lung) if the cancer has spread in the whole lung. Following surgery radiation and/or chemotherapy are usually administered to kill any of the cancer cells that may not have been removed during the surgery. Chemotherapy has horrible side effects and it’s usually an experience which drives cancer patients to the edge…
I haven’t included any gross photos here because some of my readers are quite squeamish.
Some Anti-smoking ads which I found quite powerful:
Every cigarette is doing you damage.
Women feel safer with men who smoke.
And my personal favorite – the positive???