Life, universe and everything

Morbid post dedicated to all the smokers out there

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)

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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

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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.

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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).

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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…

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I haven’t included any gross photos here because some of my readers are quite squeamish.

I did come across some gruesome images which you can see here, and a lot of them here (some esophageal cancer pictures are quite hardcore).

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???

Comments (3)

  • so yeah heavy smoker only 19 and ive been smoking like a bum for years pipes, ciggeretts, rolleys, ciggarett butt rolleys ciggars huge and small, refrys (ciggs picked up of the ground) all done consistently and consecutively and currently a pack a day to two pack a day smoker. and i actually whent to jail at one point in my life for breaking into liquar stores and stealing cartons of smokes, i was homeless at the time and because of those actions of mine i was smoking two to three packs a day. do you think you can email me with what you might expect my life expectancy to be because ive noticed negative affects on my body and some weird shit has been happening to me lately and i have no health insurence and to be honest im scared and all my attempts to quit have failed and the only thing that can keep me off it is a good women by my side (been single a real long time) but still no luck, its like im literally choking on irony
    thank you for your time and patience
    xxxxxxxxx@yahoo.com

    Reply
  • Well I’m glad to have read this. I’m on Chantix now, been smoke free for 3 day’s. Chantix is great b/c there isn’t really any withdrawl symptoms. I’ve smoked for 6 years & tried quitting cold turkey or w/ the patch a number of times before and always went back to smok’n. So far I miss part of the routine of being a smoker, relax’n w/ a cig after work or while hav’n a beer, but I’m try’n to focus on all of the positives, like not being resented by my co-workers for tak’n smoke breaks, not having to hide my smoking around people I’m interested in dating b/c it’s a turn of the basically all non smokers. My hands & clothes not smelling. I’ve really been realizing how much time I save not smoking, I accomplish a lot more throughout the day not tak’n these 5 or 10 minute breaks to smoke a cig or 2. I’m on time more, b/c I’m not try’n to smoke a cig before I get in my car (new car refuse to smoke in it). I feel like I’m breathing better already. I’ve been coughing up brown (tar colored) mucous more frequently, looking forward to that dissipating. I really feel like I’m commited to quitting now. I just look at the few people in my office who smoke that are in their 40’s & 50’s, they all look 10 to 20 years older than they really are, b/c it’s prematurely aged them. They’re all people who can finacially afford to smoke the least. I think to myself, I spend $200.00 a month on cigarettes, what could I do w/ an extra $2400.00 a year? And if I don’t quit now, how much more money am I going to flush down the toilet o something that’s killing me. I’m also try’n to remind myself of the time last summer when I was play’n w/ my nephews in the lake and I got winded from lifting them in the air, now I was a healthy 22 year old man at the time, w/out asthma, I shouldn’t be out of breath from that kind of activity. My windedness was thanks to smok’n. I look at all these pictures of smokers lungs on the internet & I’m horrified! I shutter to think what mine look like, not to mention that I’ve increased my chances of getting numerous deadly diseases exponetially. I have had a love hate relationship w/ cigarettes for years, and I’m finally to the point that the hate has surpassed the love. I finally feel ready to quit, b/c I really think I’m over the emotional attatchment. And I feel like my chances are better b/c I’ve distanced myself from the bar scene, none of my closest friends or family members smoke anymore & I used to succomb to temptation around other smokers a lot in my previous attempts to quit. Any time I have the urge to light up in the future especially after I’m done w/ chantix, I’m googling smokers diseases & doing an image search, I think that’ll be enough motivation to resist temptation from now on hopefully. I just need to keep reminding myself that I’m not a smoker and I dont want cigarettes controlling my life or jeapordizing my health anymore than they already have.

    Reply
  • @Matt: congratulations.
    Now what you need to do to try to diminish the risks of becoming sick of smoking-related diseases, like cancers, is to eat a lot of fruit and veg, especially those that contain a lot of anti-oxidants. Oxidants are the ones that cause cancer, most of the times.
    So eat lots of pomegranate, berries, drink lots, LOTS of green tea!
    Also, try to use curcumin (it’s a spice, also known as turmeric or curcuma) when you cook.
    It’s been proven to decrease the chances of getting a lot of types of cancer and other diseases.

    It’s an addiction, i know, and I can’t really give advice since I’ve never smoked, so I don’t know how hard it can be.
    But I think it’s all a matter of will power. So hang in there! And think about all these benefits you wrote about!

    Reply

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