November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month. Lung cancer is the number one cause of cancer death and the second most common type of cancer in the U.S. The most important steps you can take to lower the risk of lung cancer are to quit smoking and avoid second-hand smoke. If you do not currently smoke, commit never to take that first puff, and keep a safe distance from other people who are smoking.
About 200,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with lung cancer each year and more than 150,000 of them die from this ailment. It is estimated that about 80 to 90 percent of lung cancer cases are linked to cigarette smoking. Breathing second-hand smoke has a similar effect on the body as actually smoking. About 7,300 Americans who never smoked in their life die from lung cancer caused by second-hand smoke each year.
In addition to lung cancer, smoking can lead to cancer of the esophagus, mouth and throat, stomach, liver, pancreas, and kidneys.
Other Effects of Smoking
Beyond just causing different types of cancer, smoking may contribute to the following problems or conditions:
- Smoking compromises the appearance of hair, skin, and teeth and adds years to your looks. Smokers typically have loose skin under the eyes, which makes them look older.
- Smoking adversely affects your fertility and the strength of your heart, lungs, and bones.
- Smoking deprives your skin of nutrients and oxygen, leaving you with pale or uneven skin color. The effects on the skin may not show right away, but through years of smoking, they will gradually come through. The chemicals in tobacco smoke destroy the elastin and collagen of the skin, resulting in sagging and wrinkled skin.
- Smoking takes a toll on your body’s figure. The loss of skin elasticity results in drooping breasts and saggy inner arms.
- The use of certain muscles around the lips during smoking causes dynamic wrinkles that do not appear on non-smokers. As a result, you may develop a “smoker’s pucker.”
- Smoking results in yellow teeth, gum disease, bad breath, and other oral hygiene problems.
- Smoking stains the skin and nails of the smoker’s fingers.
- Smoking accelerates the thinning of the hair.
- Studies have shown that smokers have greater risks of contracting psoriasis, an autoimmune inflammatory condition characterized by dry and scaly skin.
Before picking up your next pack of cigarettes, consider the effect on your health and appearance. It is never too late to quit smoking.