Tobacco consumption is associated with a number of life-threatening conditions and diseases including cancer. A study suggests that India has the highest number of oral cancer cases in the world, and tobacco consumption is one of the significant reasons behind this data. Almost 60% of cancers are preventable. With some lifestyle changes and healthy behavioural patterns, one can reduce the risk of catching many cancers. There is a cultural prevalence leading towards a trend of chewing tobacco and also there is a lack of awareness in this regard. No class and section of society have been left untouched by the exposure to this habit. One may recall watching the series of advertisements of awareness about oral cancer just before the commencement of movies in cinema halls, but sadly they do not leave a longstanding effect. The need of the hour is to put in more efforts to make people more aware in this regard. So, what is oral cancer and how tobacco consumption can cause it, let’s have some insight:
How tobacco causes oral cancer:-
There are at least 70 dangerous chemicals found in cigarettes and other the form of tobacco products, getting exposed to these chemicals potentially develops oral cancer. Generally chewing tobacco is separated from smoking, but chewing tobacco, keeping it for a long time in your mouth can cause a higher risk. Oral cancer is an abnormal growth of some tissues in the mouth converting into cancer, it can spread from mouth to nose, neck area etc. At the initial stage, it can be presented in white or red spots in the mouth, bleeding in the mouth, swelling in the oral area, difficulty in swallowing etc. Hence if you have been consuming tobacco for a long time and notice such symptoms then immediately see a doctor and get the required checkups done. The treatment of oral cancer may include surgery, radiation, chemotherapies etc. as oral cancer itself is preventable, quitting tobacco and other steps can ensure a lesser risk of the disease.
How quitting smoking can help:-
Smoking has been doing nothing but severe harm to your body for those years. The risk of oral cancer is higher among tobacco consumers hence quitting smoking helps to reduce the risk of oral cancer as well as lung cancer. While smokers are at 10 times the risk of catching oral cancer, a study suggests that after 10 to 20 years of quitting smoking the risk of developing oral cancer almost comes to the level of a non-smoker. Quit smoking today and see the apparent results. Although quitting tobacco use has the potential to reverse some, but not all of the damage done by tobacco.
Apart from ensuring a lesser risk of life-threatening diseases quitting smoking or tobacco use is necessary for many other several reasons. Second-hand smoking and third-hand smoking are putting others’ lives also at risk.
Second-hand smoke and children:-
The exhaled smoke from the smoker’s mouth causes health risk to the other people around. The social responsibility of the people consuming life-threatening things and causing risk to other’s lives should be asked for. Secondhand smoke unnecessarily exposes children to harmful carcinogens and can also affect the mental and physical growth of children. Such children may also develop respiratory problems. Parents or guardians at home should be more aware in this regard. They should neither smoke themselves nor allow others to smoke at their place. Children’s organs including lungs are far more prone to the hazards of the smoke emitting from cigarettes.
This is something very less talked about. While secondhand smoking is about passively inhaling smoke around a smoker, third-hand smoking is about the area where a person has smoked, even after finishing smoking and leaving that area a number of harmful chemicals may remain behind as residue in the surroundings, rugs, furniture etc. and other people can get exposed to them. Hence smoking zones are still harmful even after people have left that place. Studies state that third-hand smoking may cause many health hazards. It can cause heart health issues as well. Here also our children are more at the risk of getting exposed to such harmful chemicals.
This article is authored by Dr. Kanika Sharma Sood, Director & Clinical Lead – Radiation Oncology, Dharamshila Narayana Superspeciality Hospital, Delhi