Smoking is one of the main risk factors for oral and oesophageal cancers. Smokers are also at risk of other forms of cancer, including bladder, bowel, liver, lung and pancreatic cancer.
Although oral cancer only accounts for around 2% of cancer cases in Britain, the occurrence of the disease is increasing year on year and there has been a significant rise in the number of cases over the last decade.
Smoking and oral cancer
Statistics from Cancer Research UK suggests that smokers are three times more likely to develop oral cancer than non-smokers. If you drink as well as smoke, this rises to seven times the risk.
Smoking is a particularly common factor in males diagnosed with oral cancer. Around 70 percent of oral and pharyngeal cancer cases in males are linked to smoking. The figure for females is around 55 percent.
The risk of oral cancer is increased with smoking because cigarettes and tobacco contain chemicals and substances known to cause cancer by damaging cell DNA. These are known as carcinogens and examples include polonium-210, benzene, nitrosamines, carbon monoxide and tar.
Chewing tobacco and other types of tobacco products also increase the risk of oral cancer. When you chew tobacco, the harmful chemicals make direct contact with your tongue and gums.
Will the risk of oral cancer fall if I quit smoking?
There are major benefits when you give up smoking and reduced risk of cancer is one of the most common reasons for quitting. Smoking causes a great deal of damage to the body and this damage takes time to heal. The longer you smoke and the more cigarettes you smoke, the longer it will take for your health to improve. Statistics show that people who quit smoking reduce their risk of oral cancer by up to 25 percent in the first four years.
Tips for giving up smoking
Giving up smoking is a notoriously difficult process because of nicotine’s addictive properties. However, there are numerous effective ways to quit and it’s not impossible to give up for good. Here are some top tips:
- Try to avoid other smokers for the first week or so
- Keep track of how many days you’ve been smoke-free
- Keep a record of how much you would have spent on cigarettes and treat yourself with the extra cash
- Research the benefits of giving up smoking
- Write a list of the reasons you’re giving up and read it when you feel tempted
- Ask others for help, including your GP or stop smoking support groups
- Encourage friends and family members who smoke to give up with you