Cigars and Cancer

While most people know about the cancer risks associated with cigarette smoking, there is also a relationship between cigars and cancer. Studies on cigars and cancer show that even among daily cigar smokers who do not inhale, the risk of oral cancers is seven times greater than it is for nonsmokers. Daily cigar smoking can cause different types of cancer, as well as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and coronary heart disease. The smoke released from cigars and cigarettes contain many of the same toxic agents and human carcinogens.

Cigars and Cancer: An Overview

A report released by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in Bethesda, Md., shows that daily cigar smoking causes the following health conditions:
 
  • Cancers of the lip, tongue, mouth, throat, larynx, esophagus, and lung
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary (lung) disease
  • Coronary heart disease.
 

Cancer-Causing Chemicals in Cigar Smoke

The smoke released from cigars and cigarettes contain many of the same toxic agents (carbon monoxide, nicotine, hydrogen cyanide, ammonia, and volatile aldehydes) and human carcinogens (benzene, vinyl chloride, ethylene oxide, arsenic, cadmium, nitrosamines, and polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons).
 
However, the amounts of these substances present in cigar smoke are different than in cigarette smoke. For example, compared to a cigarette, a large cigar emits up to 20 times more ammonia, 5 to 10 times more cadmium (a cancer-causing metal) and methyl ethyl nitrosamine (a cancer-causing agent), and up to 80 to 90 times as much of the highly carcinogenic tobacco-specific nitrosamines.
 
These differences are due to several factors, including the following:
 
  • The long aging and fermentation process for cigar tobacco leaves results in higher concentrations of nitrate in cigar tobaccos
  • The nonporous cigar wrappers make combustion of cigar tobacco less complete than that of cigarette tobacco, producing more toxic compounds in the smoke
  • The larger size of most cigars produces more smoke.
 
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