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One in four male smokers aged 35 can expect to die before the age of 65 if they continue to smoke COMPARED to only one in eight for men who have never smoked.
The likelihood of an ex-smoker aged 35 dying before age 65 years is significantly lower than for those who continue to smoke (this is especially true for female ex-smokers whose chances of dying before age 65 is just marginally higher than for those women who have never smoked at all).
(source: HEA - "The UK Smoking
Epidemic: deaths in 1995")
At least 43 elements in tobacco smoke have been shown to cause cancer
How many times more likely are smokers (as opposed to non-smokers) to contract cancer?
Lung cancer (Smoking men are 27 times more likely to get lung cancer than men who dont smoke and smoking women are 14 times more likely to get lung cancer than women who dont smoke). In fact, 89 per cent of lung cancer deaths in England are caused by smoking.
While lung cancer is relatively rare under the age of 30, starting young increases your chances of contracting it because the risk of lung caner is related to the length of time smoking, not just to the total exposure. Those who start before the age of 20 are at considerably greater risk than those who start later.
Cancers of the nose (smokers are twice as likely to get this), tongue, mouth, salivary glands and pharynx (6 times more likely for smoking women, 27 times more likely for smoking men), throat (12 times more likely), penis (2 to 3 times more likely) and anus (8 to 9 times more likely).
(source: "Cigarettes: What the Warning Label Doesn't Tell You", a compilation of scientific research from the American Council on Science and Health - 1996; "Smoking and the Young", The Royal College of Physicians, 1993)
What is oral cancer?
Using the British dental Associations definition, "oral cancer sites are the lip, tongue, gum, floor of the mouth, other unspecified parts of the mouth, oropharynx, hypopharynx and other and ill-defined sites within lip, oral cavity and pharynx"
How common is it?
Is the UK there are currently about 3400 new cases of oral cancer a year and about 1600 deaths (on average 4 people die everyday in the UK from oral cancer). In the UK there are about 55 new oral cancer cases each year per million people in the population.
Cancer of the tongue accounts for 1 in 4 new cases of oral cancer in the UK and almost one third of deaths from oral cancer.
The incidence of oral cancer in the UK is comparable with that of other more publicised cancers. In England and Wales in 1995, there were 1339 deaths from cervical cancer, 1395 skin melanoma deaths and 130 deaths from oral cancer.
Who is at risk?
Oral cancer is not just a disease of the very old a third of all people who dies from oral cancer are under 65 years old. That said, the incidence of oral cancer is about twice as high in men as in women and is most frequent in those over 40 years of age. The highest risk group - smokers who are also heavy consumers of alcohol. The odds of developing oral cancer increase with the frequency and duration of use of tobacco and alcohol, and with combined use of the two.
"Tobacco is by far and away the most important risk factor for oral cancer There is good evidence that after about ten years after quitting smoking, the oral cancer risk returns to that of an individual who has never smoked" British Dental Association (1998)
The average duration of symptoms is usually around four to five months, ranging from a few weeks up to one year. The majority of squamous cell carcinomas grow rather slowly. Occasionally however, such cancers behave in a very aggressive way, doubling in size in just a few days or a week.
In carcinomas of the tongue, pain is often the first symptom, this may be localised to the tongue or referred (e.g. to the ear) Reduced mobility of the tongue may be another symptom.
Many smokers die each year from debilitating lung conditions other than lung cancer. Emphysema, a swelling and rupturing of the lungs air sacs, reduces the lungs capacity to take in oxygen (and expel carbon dioxide).
In extreme cases, a tracheotomy helps patients breathe: an opening is cut in the windpipe, allowing a ventilator to force air into the lungs.
Chronic bronchitis creates a build-up of pus-filled mucus, resulting in a painful cough and breathing difficulties.
83 per cent of deaths from emphysema and bronchitis in England are smoking related.
Smoking makes the heart beat faster, raises blood pressure and increases the risk of hypertension and clogged arteries.
Almost half of all young deaths (i.e. below age 65) from heart disease are caused by smoking.
Smokers are twice as likely as non-smokers to have a sudden cardiac arrest and also twice as likely to die from coronary heart disease.
In fact, one in six deaths in the UK that are caused by heart disease happened because the victim was a smoker.
Smoking can damage blood vessel walls, making it difficult for the heart to pump blood to the extremities.
In extreme cases, Buergers disease is a rare form of peripheral vessel arteritis which is almost entirely confined to young men (20 40) who are heavy smokers Buergers disease can lead to gangrene (the death of body tissue) and even the amputation of a limb. The association with smoking is so strong that abstinence can lead to resolution of the lesions. However, if patients continue to smoke, amputation is inevitable.
(source: "Smoking and the Young", The Royal College of Physicians, 1993)
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Updated February 2019