Lung cancer causes the most cancer deaths
create jobs 51/Shutterstock
The 23 best ways to stop smoking can reduce your chances of getting lung cancer. But if you’re still lighting up, here’s exactly what it’s doing to your body to cause the condition: “Smoking introduces various toxic substances into the lungs that can affect the DNA of lung cells,” says Jacob Sands, MD, an oncologist and lung cancer researcher at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. “These toxins increase the chance of mutations, or changes, developing in the DNA of lung cells.” When certain mutations replicate out of control, that’s cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in U.S. adults—more than colon, breast, and prostate cancers combined.
Your risk is dose-dependent
The more you smoke (or did in the past), the greater the risk of lung cancer. “Although quitting is the best way to decrease the risk of being diagnosed with lung cancer, it does not make the risks go away,” Dr. Sands says. Fifty percent of those diagnosed with lung cancer are former smokers, he says. But this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t bother quitting. “The risk decreases the longer the person has refrained from smoking,” he says. According to Harvard Medical School, a former smoker’s lung cancer risk is cut by 50 percent in ten years, but is still elevated after 15 years. Find out other mind-blowing ways your body heals after you quit smoking.
“Social smokers” are still at risk
One of the rampant health myths that need to die is that smoking just a little when you’re out with friends doesn’t mean you’re a smoker. “It is common for people to believe that ‘social smoking’ will not affect them,” Dr. Sands says. “Each cigarette one smokes actually creates measurable changes that can be observed.” The risk for developing lung cancer increases after 100 lifetime cigarettes, he says. “Many people find that to be a shockingly low number,” he says. But even light and intermittent smoking can cause substantial health risks, according to a review of research.