Smoking - Your Deadly Decision

Smoking - Your Deadly Decision

Smoking is by far the leading cause of lung cancer. Cancer develops when some event, such as smoking, damages the genetic code of normal cells and dismantles the body's natural defense against cancer. One reason why lung cancer is so deadly is that it can hide for years without symptoms. By the time it is discovered, it may have already spread to the brain, liver, bones or other organs. But lung cancer isn't the only cancer caused by smoking. Researchers have also linked smoking to cancers of the mouth, throat, pancreas, blood, cervix, kidney and bladder, and it is a major cause of emphysema, chronic bronchitis, stroke and heart disease.

Researchers separate smoking into two phases, a gas phase and a solid phase. Oxidants, including free radicals produced by cigarette smoke, can damage the genetic code. Studies suggest that they alter DNA, protein and lipids (fats). The damage to DNA may be irreparable, leading to the development of cancer. Mutated

cells reproduce rapidly, forming clumps of cells (tumors) that continue to grow and spread. It is difficult to stop smoking because tobacco smokers eventually become addicted to nicotine. Researchers have found that the physiology of the nicotine-addicted brain is similar to that of the cocaine- and heroin-addicted brain.

Smoking is perceived as a way to release stress. The entertainment industry often portrays it as a cool, sophisticated activity. Rarely, does television depict the real-life fatal illness caused by cigarette smoking.

This dangerous habit affects everyone, including nonsmokers. Environmental or passive tobacco smoke contains many of the same toxic substances the smoker inhales into the lungs, which is why the Environmental Protection Agency has classified secondhand smoke as a "group A" human carcinogen with no safe levels of exposure. Secondhand smoke causes more than 50,000 deaths per year. If there is a smoker in your family, your chance of getting lung cancer is 30 percent higher than in a family of non-smokers.

Pregnant women shouldn't smoke at all. Those who do risk premature birth, low birthweight, spontaneous abortion and prenatal mortality.

Once smokers quit, the health benefits begin almost immediately. Within 20 minutes, blood pressure, pulse rate and body temperature drop to normal. Within eight hours, the carbon monoxide level in blood drops to normal, and the oxygen level increases to normal. After 48 hours have passed, the nerve endings start to regrow, and the ability to smell and taste is enhanced. Within three months circulation improves, walking becomes easier and lung function increases by 30 percent. After one year, the risk of coronary heart disease is cut to half that of a smoker. By the time 10 years have passed, the risk of lung cancer is decreased by half.