Smoking Is a Risk Factor for Lung Cancer: Here’s How
World No Tobacco Day is celebrated around the globe every year to encourage people to refrain from all forms of tobacco consumption and to create a global recall about the harmful effects of tobacco on one’s health.
This year’s theme is “tobacco and lung health’’. The aim is to increase awareness around the negative impact of tobacco on lung health.
Lungs play a fundamental role in the overall well-being of an individual and smoking (both cigarettes and beedis) has several adverse effects on it. The most common and life-threatening disease caused by smoking is lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). It is estimated that 90 percent of lung cancer diagnoses could be prevented if smoking was eradicated.
Lung Cancer Incidence in India
Lung cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed worldwide.
According to Globocan 2018, (that includes estimates of incidence, mortality rate and prevalence of 36 types of cancers in 185 countries of the world), it accounts for 6.9 percent of all new cancer cases in India and the second most common cancer in Indian men.
Risk Factors for Lung Cancer
- Smoking is the leading risk factor for lung cancer be it bidi, cigarette, cigar or pipe smoking. Cigarette smoking contains more than 300 chemicals, 40 of which are potent carcinogenic (cancer-causing agents)
- Secondhand smoking which is caused by sidestream smoke inhalation due to burning tobacco products, such as cigarettes, bidis, cigars, or pipes. Secondhand smoke also refers to smoke that has been exhaled, or breathed out, by the person smoking and subsequently re-inhaled
- Family history of smoking
- Exposure to industrial effluents such as diesel and welding fumes, motor exhaust, natural fibres (asbestos, silica, wood, or coal dust), radon, reactive chemicals (mustard gas, vinyl chloride) and solvents (benzene, toluene) are associated with higher risk
Symptoms of Lung Cancer
The most common symptom is persistent coughing with sputum, with or without blood in it, shortness of breath, chest pain related to breathing and unexplained loss of appetite and weight. Since the symptoms of lung cancer mimic the symptoms of tuberculosis, the diagnosis of lung cancer often gets delayed.
So, smokers need to be more alert to symptoms. It is very important to seek early medical advice from a doctor because lung cancer is curable only when detected early.
Heavy smokers should undergo a lung cancer screening test as advised by the doctor and it is generally recommended for people who are between 55 and 80 years old. A low-dose computerized tomography (CT) scan of the chest is recommended for high risk individuals.
How To Maintain Optimum Lung Health
Following measures can help in keeping one’s lungs healthy:
- Quit smoking: If you have never smoked, then don’t start now. Moreover, educate children around you on the harmful effects of smoking to inculcate the knowledge and avoid peer pressure in the future. Avoid passive smoking as it is can lead to fatalities like premature death and coronary heart diseases in non-smokers
- Dietary recommendations: Avoid sugary drinks and consumption of energy dense foods. Eat a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes such as beans. Avoid red meat and processed meat.
- Physical activities: Walking, running, practicing yoga and dancing are low intensity workouts that one should regularly do to ensure good lung health
It is important be aware of the risk factors and symptoms of lung cancer to enable early diagnosis and prevention. Unfortunately, more than half the patients get diagnosed in advanced stages due to lack of awareness. Therefore, early detection is the key to fighting lung cancer.
(Dr Anand Jaiswal is the Director, Respiratory and Sleep Medicine, at Medanta, The Medicity)