Tobacco smoke is made up of thousands of chemicals including over 70 carcinogens or chemicals known to cause cancer. Once inhaled into the lungs, many of these chemicals pass through the lung walls into the blood stream and are pumped around the body.
Smoking is known to cause 14 types of cancers in men, including lung cancer, which is the most common cause of death from cancer among Australian men. Other cancers caused by smoking include cancer of the mouth, throat, voice box, nose, oesophagus, bladder, kidney, ureter, pancreas, stomach, bowel, liver and bone marrow.
Smoking also causes other diseases and health problems such as emphysema (irreversbile damage of the lungs), heart attack and stroke. It can also affect your ability to have and maintain an erection, and lower sperm quality.
Am I at risk?
There is no safe level of smoking. Research estimates that two in three lifetime smokers will die from a disease caused by their smoking.
What can I do to reduce my risk?
It is never too late to quit.
Quitting smoking at any age will benefit your health. As soon as you quit smoking, there are immediate and long-term health benefits, even if you already suffer from smoking-related health problems.
- Within a day, almost all of the nicotine will be out of your bloodstream.
- Within 2 months your immune system and blood flow to your hands and feet will improve.
- After 1 year, your lungs will be healthier and you'll be breathing easier than if you'd kept smoking.
- After 10 years, your risk of lung cancer will be lower than that of a continuing smoker (provided the disease is not already present).
Quitting can be difficult, but you can call the Quitline on 13 7848 to speak to a trained Quit specialist (8am–8pm, Monday to Friday). Visit quit.org.au for more information.
David’s brother (age 49) is trying to quit smoking to reduce his risk of cancers linked to smoking. He also drinks regularly which increases his risk of other cancers.