Lung cancer affects the lungs in the human body that are responsible for oxygen intake and the exhalation of carbon dioxide. With the lungs being a critical part of the breathing system, lung cancer has developed to be the leading type of cancer in human beings (Friis and Sellers 54). The overdevelopment of cells in the lungs typically begins in the linings of the bronchi that are crucial for directing oxygen into the lungs. Smoking increases the risk of individuals contracting lung cancer and is responsible for a majority of reported and diagnosed cases globally.
Symptoms of lung cancer include prolonged coughs, chest pain that worsens with breathing or coughing, producing sputum, and shortness of breath. Apart from that, other signs are unexplained weight loss, recurrent respiratory infections such as pneumonia, and a loss of appetite (American Cancer Society). While symptoms usually occur at later stages of the development of cancer, early detection is possible, which increases the chances of successful treatment.
Types of Lung Cancer
Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) forms a majority of reported and diagnosed cases of lung cancer in patients. In this case, this type of cancer develops in areas including mucus-secreting cells and squamous cells found inside airways. Due to the slow nature of this cancer, the growth and development of tumors cover extended periods (Zheng 451). Recovery rates for NSCLC are higher due to the early development of symptoms.
On the other hand, small cell lung cancer (SCLC) is less common, covering approximately 15% of diagnosed lung cancers. This type of cancer is fast-spreading, hence more lethal to patients, considering the extensive damage done to the lungs once discovered (Zheng 456). Furthermore, its asymptomatic nature makes it difficult to identify, thus lower recovery rates. This makes SCLC the most aggressive form of lung cancer that can further metastasize to other organs of the body.
Role of Smoking in the Development of Cancer
Smoking products such as cigarettes leads to bodily harm, with the failure of organs and their related systems. As a result, cancer can develop in areas such as the mouth, throat, lungs, and esophagus. Smoking cigarettes increases the probability of developing lung cancer which can ultimately lead to premature death (Friis and Sellers 325). Furthermore, increased duration of smoking leads to exacerbated health effects on the individual’s body. More so, second-hand smoking, which involves the inhalation of smoke indirectly from users, can also lead to the development of cancer. This shows the high level of risks associated with smoke from cigarettes to human beings.
Cigarettes contain tobacco, which is burned to produce smoke inhaled by its users. Tobacco smoke contains several chemicals that are harmful to humans, including at least seventy shown to directly cause cancer. These chemicals, known as carcinogens, affect cell development in the lungs, leading to excessive reproduction rates that result in cancer (Zheng 447). Apart from that, tobacco also contains nicotine, which forms an addictive chemical compound. Consequently, nicotine combined with carcinogens results in continued usage of tobacco products.
Chemicals in Cigarettes
Carcinogens in cigarettes include chemicals such as benzene, arsenic, formaldehyde, and cadmium. The combination of these chemicals in tobacco smoke increases the risk of the development of health complications, including lung cancer (American Cancer Society). An analysis of the above chemicals is provided below, showing the effects of each on the human body.
Benzene forms part of the by-products of combustion during tobacco burning in cigarettes. Being an extremely volatile compound, it enters the body through inhalation, thus putting both smokers and non-smokers at risk. As a result of its toxicity, benzene reduces the white blood cell and red blood cell counts while also affecting the bone marrow. As a result, smokers are prone to cases of anemia and the development of leukemia through prolonged exposure (American Cancer Society). Furthermore, benzene also causes the weakening of the immune system, making users at risk of further infections that lead to poor health outcomes.
Exposure to arsenic in cigarettes is largely linked to pesticides used in the growth of tobacco in farms. Inorganic arsenic produced with its combination with other elements during combustion such as oxygen and chlorine forms a significant portion of inhaled smoke (American Cancer Society). The alveoli in the lungs absorb a majority of the arsenic leading to higher concentrations levels of the chemical. As a result, the concentration of arsenic in the respiratory tract leads to the development of lung cancer in smokers.
Formaldehyde is also a by-product of the combustion process of tobacco, which includes additives such as sugars. As a result, first-hand smoke by the user generates the largest amount of this chemical which is then inhaled. It further causes irritation in the throat, nose, and eyes of both smokers and non-smokers (National Cancer Institute). Additionally, the longevity of formaldehyde in the environment during smoking poses a risk to other parties since it can be inhaled over extended periods. Its effects on the upper respiratory tract resulting in the development of cancer in long-term users of cigarettes.
Cadmium forms part of heavy metals inhaled through cigarette smoking in human beings. Inhaled smoke contains significant levels of cadmium that are absorbed into the lungs and other body organs. While cadmium may be present in acceptable amounts in food products based on the soil used, higher levels of exposure are dangerous to humans (American Cancer Society). Inhalation causes the build-up of the chemical in the lungs while causing damage that may ultimately lead to lung cancer.
Effects of Second-Hand Smoke
Second-hand smoke refers to the involuntary inhalation of tobacco smoke from third parties. This type of smoking may either be from the burning of tobacco through cigarettes or through exhaled smoke from a user. Such passive smoking is considered a carcinogen in human beings, leading to the development of lung cancer in non-smokers. More so, smaller levels of exposure pose a significant amount of risk to non-smokers, especially children, and pregnant mothers. Second-hand smoking is shown to cause approximately 7,300 lung cancer deaths in the United States each year (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). As a result, living with smokers increases the risk of developing a disease or even premature death. Therefore, continued exposure to passive smoke from cigarettes causes damage to cells in the same way when compared to smokers.
Consequently, smoking increases the risk of individuals contracting lung cancer and is responsible for a majority of diagnosed cases in the world. Cigarettes, which are commonly used, contain tobacco that is burned to produce smoke that is inhaled by its users. As a result, carcinogens produced by tobacco smoke lead to an increased risk of lung cancer in both smokers and non-smokers exposed to it. The most common carcinogens include benzene, arsenic, and formaldehyde. Therefore, lung cancer can affect both smokers and non-smokers exposed to combusting tobacco in the same way, with longer exposure increasing the risk of its development.
American Cancer Society. Harmful Chemicals in Tobacco Products. 2020. Web.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Health Effects of Secondhand Smoke. 2020. Web.
Friis, Robert H., and Thomas A. Sellers. Epidemiology for Public Health Practice. 6th ed., Jones & Bartlett Publishers, 2021.
National Cancer Institute. Harms of Cigarette Smoking and Health Benefits of Quitting. 2017. Web.
Zheng, Min. “Classification and Pathology of Lung Cancer.” Surgery Oncology Clinics of North America, vol. 25, no. 3, 2016, pp. 447-468.