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Tobacco and Cancer


Tobacco and Cancer

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									            Tobacco and Cancer
Tobacco smoke is the single most avoidable cause of cancer. Tobacco is related to many types of
cancer, including lung cancer, head and neck cancers, mouth cancer, urinary & bladder
cancers, stomach cancer, pancreatic cancer and some types of leukaemia. In Australia,
tobacco smoking causes 90% of lung cancers in men and 65% in women.

Tobacco smoke contains about 4,000 chemical agents, including many substances that are poisonous
and toxic to the human body, such as carbon monoxide, tar, arsenic, and lead, and over 60 known
carcinogens. (For more information about what’s in a cigarette, see our Information Sheet ‘All About

Smoking Related Cancers                                 Quitting begins to reverse some of the health
                                                        effects of smoking, including the risk of getting lung
A recent (2002) publication from the International      cancer. Ex-smokers’ lung cancer risk continues to
                                         1              decline as the years go by, but as many as half of
Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) added                                                           4
additional cancer sites to the already very long list   all lung cancer is diagnosed in ex-smokers.
of cancers caused by smoking. A scientific working
group of 29 experts from 12 countries reviewed all      Not only cigarettes
significant published evidence related to tobacco
smoking and cancer, both active and involuntary.        Apart from cigarette smoking, other widely used
These additional cancers include some of the most       forms of tobacco smoking, such as cigars, pipes
common kinds of cancer around the world, including      and bidis (common in South Asia and growing in
cancers of the stomach, liver, uterine cervix, and      popularity in the United States), also increase
kidney (renal cell carcinoma) and myeloid               cancer risks for cancer of the lung, cancer of the
leukaemia. In addition, it noted the cancer risks of    head and neck, and other cancers.
tobacco smoking are greatly enhanced for some
cancer sites when combined with exposure to other
                                                        Smokeless tobacco is also carcinogenic to
known carcinogens.
                                                        humans. A review of scientific evidence by the
                                                        International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC)
Research continues into the relationship (if any)
                                                        concluded that smokeless tobacco causes both oral
between tobacco smoke and breast cancer,                                       3
childhood cancer and melanoma.                          and pancreatic cancer.

The risk of developing smoking-related cancers, as      Many types of smokeless tobacco are marketed for
well as non-cancerous diseases, is related to both      oral or nasal use as an alternative to smoking. In
how long and how much a person has smoked – or          1986, the Surgeon General concluded that the use
their total lifetime exposure to tobacco smoke. This    of smokeless tobacco is not a safe substitute for
includes the number of cigarettes a person smokes       smoking cigarettes.
each day, the intensity of smoking, the age at
which smoking began, the number of years a              Cancer risk in non-smokers
person has smoked, and a smoker’s second-hand
smoke exposure.                                         Non-smokers are exposed to the same carcinogens
                                                        as active smokers. Even the typical levels of passive
                                                        exposure have been shown to cause lung cancer
among never smokers. Second-hand tobacco smoke
IS carcinogenic to humans.

Incidence and Mortality
In 2001, according to the Australian Institute of
Health and Welfare (AIHW) series Cancer in
Australia, cigarette smoking is estimated to have
directly caused 10,592 new cases of cancer (54.6
new cases per 100,000 population) and 7,820
deaths (40.3 per 100,000 population).

In South Australia in 2001, cigarette smoking is
estimated to have directly caused 870 new cases of
cancer and 658 cancer deaths.

1.   WHO, IARC (2002). Tobacco Smoke and Involuntary
     Smoking. Summary of Data Reported and Evaluation.
     Lyon: IARC Monographs, 2002.
2.   Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) &
     Australasian Association of Cancer Registries (AACR)
     2004. Cancer in Australia 2001. AIHW cat. no. CAN
     23. Canberra: AIHW (Cancer Series no. 28).
3.   IARC (2004) Iarc Monographs Programme Finds
     Smokeless Tobacco Is Carcinogenic To Humans.
     International Agency for Research on Cancer. Press
     Release No.154.
4.   National Health and Medical Research Council. The
     health effects of passive smoking: a scientific
     information paper. Canberra:AGPS, 1997.

Useful Sites
American Cancer Society

US National Cancer Institute site

The Cancer Council South Australia

Other Information Sheets on this site
Smoking & lung disease (for information on
smoking & lung cancer)

                                         JANUARY 2006


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