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How Does Smoking Cause Lung Cancer?

You’ve probably heard about the link between smoking and lung cancer. Indeed, smoking is the No. 1 cause of lung cancer and is responsible for approximately 85% of all lung cancer cases. Even for someone who has never smoked, being exposed to secondhand smoke—which includes both the smoke that’s emitted from the end of a burning cigarette and the smoke that’s exhaled by the person smoking the cigarette—can increase the risk of developing lung cancer by approximately 20% to 30%. But, how exactly does smoking cause lung cancer?

Research suggests that smoking causes lung cancer by creating cell mutations. Cigarette smoke contains thousands of chemicals, many of which are carcinogens. Although the human body can often detoxify and get rid of carcinogens, when it’s not able to do so, leftover carcinogens can cause the cells in the body to mutate, sometimes transforming into cancerous cells. The normal cell repair process requires cells to keep dividing until any damage is repaired, and healthy cells know when to stop dividing. Cells that have developed cancerous mutations, on the other hand, lose the ability to know when to stop and will instead keep dividing and growing.

Not all cell mutations are cancerous. However, the more smoke someone inhales, the more mutations he or she will develop, and the greater the chance will be that one of those mutations is cancerous. As such, the longer someone smokes, and the more frequently he or she does so, the higher the risk will be of developing cancer. Notably, although carcinogens often affect the cells in the lungs, they can also enter the bloodstream and travel throughout the entire body, leading to various types of cancer.

Lung cancer screening is available at Moffitt

If you’re worried that you might have lung cancer, you can turn to the experts at Moffitt Cancer Center. We proudly offer a lung cancer screening program to individuals who are considered to be high-risk according to national guidelines and evidence-based practices. To find out if you qualify for this program or to learn more about how smoking causes lung cancer, call 1-888-663-3488 or complete a new patient registration form online.