Lung Cancer Risk Factors: Cigar and Pipe Smoking
The fact that tobacco smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer and accounts for the vast majority of cases is well known—but does it matter how the tobacco is smoked? Are pipe smoking and cigar smoking as hazardous and cigarette smoking?
An article published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, “Cigar and Pipe Smoking and Lung Cancer Risk: a Multicenter Study From Europe,” doesn’t seem to offer much comfort to people who might think switching from cigarettes to a pipe or cigars will reduce their lung cancer risk.
If cigar and pipe smoking can be said to pose less of risk than cigarettes, it’s seems likely that the reduction is due more to the amount people smoke than to differences in the smoke itself.
The study found that “the slopes of the dose-response relations … estimated for duration of use and for average and cumulative consumption of cigars, cigarillos, and pipe tobacco are comparable to those for cigarette smoking.”
In other words, smoking the same amount using a pipe as using cigarettes poses just about the same risk of developing lung cancer.
Findings such as these seem to explain why “tobacco smoking” and not “cigarette smoking” is listed as a lung cancer risk factor and included so prominently in lung cancer risk assessments. Tobacco smoke contains a wide variety of harmful substances, no matter how it is delivered to the lungs. However, many people seem to forget this important point.
In fact, it remains a common misconception that the real culprit in tobacco smoke is nicotine. But nicotine does not cause lung cancer. There is some evidence that nicotine might aggravate lung cancer that is already present or inhibit the action of chemotherapy, but it does not cause the disease.
Tobacco smoke — not just cigarette smoke — contains 250 harmful chemicals, according to the National Cancer Institute, and 50 of these chemicals are known to cause cancer. A few of the chemicals, include:
• Ethylene oxide
• Vinyl chloride (a toxic substance used in manufacturing plastics)
This list of toxic metals and other dangerous substances seems to present a good argument for quitting tobacco smoking, not just switching delivery systems. Stopping potentially reduces the risk of developing lung cancer significantly. Changing to a pipe or cigars seems much less likely to do so.