Smoking and lung cancer

It’s important to know the facts about smoking so you can make an informed decision about quitting.

Smoking is the cause of over 80,000 deaths each year in the UK, with one in two smokers dying from smoking-related diseases.* Each cigarette smoked causes damage to the body, so it’s never too late to give up.

Smoking and lung cancer

The link between smoking and lung cancer was established more than 50 years ago. People who smoke – and those who used to smoke have a particularly high risk of developing the disease: smoking causes 72%** of cases. It also doesn’t matter if you use filters or low-tar cigarettes, any form of smoking can result in lung cancer. People who currently smoke are 15 times more likely to die from lung cancer than those who have never smoked.

Exposure to second hand smoke (passive smoking) is also a cause of lung cancer, and has even been proven to affect animals.

Smoking is not the only cause of lung cancer, however. There are other factors that increase the risk of developing lung cancer, for example, exposure to chemicals found in the workplace or environment, such as: asbestos, radon, diesel exhaust fumes, synthetic fibres and many others. 13% of lung cancer cases are caused by workplace exposures, and 8% caused by air pollution**

How does smoking cause lung cancer?

Cigarettes are packed with chemicals, such as benzene and nitrosamines that can damage the DNA in the cells of the lungs. This damage can build up in each cell until it eventually leads to lung cancer. It often takes a long period of time – usually years or even decades – for the DNA damage resulting in lung cancer, but it’s been proven that even 15 cigarettes can alter the DNA in a cell.

What are the other effects of smoking?

  • A thickening of blood, increasing the risk of blood clots
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure
  • Narrowing of arteries
  • Increase risk of a stroke
  • Increased risk of heart disease, heart attacks and vascular disease
  • Higher chances of developing stomach cancer and ulers
  • Bad breath and stained teeth
  • Lung disease
  • Reduced fertility
  • Weaker bones

*NHS UK, https://www.nhs.uk/smokefree/why-quit/smoking-health-problems, September 2018**Cancer Research UK, https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/health-professional/cancer-statistics/statistics-by-cancer-type/lung-cancer, September 2018