- Lung Cancer and Smoking
- By:Maimah Karmo
According to the American Cancer Society, today, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in women. In 2006, an estimated 162,460 deaths resulted from lung cancer, and of those deaths, an estimated 79,560 of those were women. At first glance, the numbers might not seem so alarming., but what is alarming is the fact that "between 1960 and 1990, deaths from lung cancer among women increased by more than 400%" (www.lungcancer.org). Do you need a moment to digest those statistics? I know I did.
In addition, to being the leading cause of cancer-related death for women, the National Cancer Institutes reports that the expected 5-year survival rate for all patients in whom lung cancer is diagnosed is 15.5 percent compared to 64.8 percent for colon, 89 percent for breast and 99.9 percent for prostate cancer. Further, about 6 out of 10 people with lung cancer die within 1 year of being diagnosed with the disease (Lungusa).
After reading the data, I did some research to uncover the cause of such high incidences of lung cancer overall, and particularly, in women. Studies show that while lung cancer can be caused by a variety of factors, including asbestos and environmental pollution, smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer in the United States, with an estimated 90 percent of lung cancer cases caused by smoking. 5 What that means, is that 90 percent of lung cancer cases are preventable; and in 2006, of the 79,560 women that died, 71,685 of those deaths were senseless.
To make the numbers understandable from a layman's point of view, what they correlate to is this: more people have died from smoking in one year than there were American military casualties in Iraq since the war started in 2003, and more than were murdered in the United States in 2005.
Hence, it begs to be considered that if lung cancer is preventable, why do over 1.1 billion people, over 1/6 of the world's total population choose to smoke and ingest harmful tobacco products? This includes 33% of the African population; 57% of the people in the United States; 72% of Europeans; 48% of Southeast Asians, 39% of Eastern Mediterraneans; and 68% of people in Western Pacific nations (World Heath Organization, 2000 estimates).
The answer in short is addiction.
With this in mind, I struck out to learn more about the history of the cigarette. I was in for quite an education. Besides providing you with a history of the cigarette, this article will also educate you on what lung cancer does to your body, steps you can take to prevent it, methods of screening, and resources. Hopefully, what you learn in the following pages will enable you to make a decision that could save a life.
History of the Cigarette
The primary ingredient in a cigarette is tobacco. Tobacco in cigarettes is usually a blend of several types of the tobacco leaf, which have the effect of euphoria on the nervous system. Tar, a by-product of the cigarette, is produced when the cigarette is lit. Nicotine is also part of the make up of the tobacco leaf. When a cigarette is lit and the smoke inhaled, nicotine moves into the blood vessels of the mucous membranes, skin and lungs, and then directly to your brain [within seconds], increasing adrenaline production, stimulating neurons in the brain that cause "good" feelings, which encourage a person to want to repeat the action that caused that feeling (addiction), further stimulating the production and release of endorphins, which cause feelings of euphoria. (howstuffworks.com).
Man has been using the tobacco product for thousands of years. Native Americans smoked prior to the arrival of European explores; and the practice is even depicted in early Mayan art dating back to 1,500 years ago, when tobacco was also used as a medicinal antidote. In the 16th century, smoking was common mostly among sailors. The cigar later became popular in England in the 1820s. The cigarette soon appeared in Spain. During World War I, tobacco products were included in military rations. After the war, manufacturers began advertising cigarette smoking as glamorous, and the rest, as they say is history (Wikipedia).
When manufacturers recognized the marketability of the cigarette, they became interested in learning how to get more people to smoke. Advertising was one way. The other way was to include additives that made cigarette smoking less harsh, more tasty...and more addictive. Today, there are over 599 known additives in cigarettes that have been approved by the United States (U.S.) Government. What most people don't know is that while some of these additives are safe and can be found in everyday foods, others are extremely dangerous when ingested and when burned, these additives produce chemical compounds that are toxic.
Some of the additives included in cigarettes are carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, hydrogen cyanide, ammonia, formaldehyde and hydrazine, among others. These harsh chemicals have no natural place in a human body, and even to a layman, it is obvious that these products would be harmful when ingested. Carbon monoxide, for example, a poisonous gas found in car exhaust smoke, when inhaled, can cause fatigue, nausea, disorientation and chest pains. Hydrogen cyanide is used to make fibers, plastics, dyes, pesticides and under the name of Zyklon B, was used as a genocidal agent in World War I. Ammonia is a household cleaner which causes skin, eye, nose, throat and lung irritation. Formaldehyde is used to manufacture building materials and to preserve dead bodies. It causes watery eyes, burning of the eyes, nose and throat, coughing, wheezing and skin irritation. Together with the other additives in a cigarette, each time a smoker lights up and inhales, they are inhaling a "cocktail" of carcinogens, creating a multitude of illnesses in their bodies and speeding up death. At the same time, because the physiological and psychological rewards are so immediate, most smokers, after just one cigarette, are on their way to addiction. Nowadays, cigarettes can be found pretty much everywhere, at neighborhood grocery stores, gas stations, street vendors and even on-line.