A Banner Publication
November 2, 2006 – No. 3
Send this page to a friend!

Sponsored by:

Questions & Answers

1. Is it safer to smoke cigars or pipes or use smokeless tobacco than to smoke cigarettes?

Smoking cigars or pipes also increases the risk of lung cancer. Cigars, for example, contain the same addictive, toxic and cancer-causing compounds found in cigarettes. In fact, cigar smokers may spend up to an hour smoking a single large cigar that can contain as much tobacco as a pack of cigarettes. Studies show that men who smoke at least five cigars a day and report moderate inhalation, experience lung cancer deaths at about two-thirds the rate of men who smoke one pack of cigarettes a day. Cigar smokers experience higher rates of lung cancer, heart disease, bronchitis, and emphysema than nonsmokers. Studies show that men who smoke at least three cigars a day are two to three times more likely to die of lung cancer than non-smokers.

Smokeless tobacco also causes significant health risks and is not a safe substitute for smoking cigarettes. It contains the same chemicals as cigarettes and can still lead to nicotine addiction and dependence. Holding one pinch of smokeless tobacco in your mouth for 30 minutes delivers as much nicotine as 3 to 4 cigarettes. Smokeless tobacco contains 28 cancer-causing agents and also increases the risk of developing oral cancer compared to cigarette smoking.

2. Why are there no screening tests available for lung cancer?

Screening tests are effective because they are able to easily detect cancers. There is no easy test to detect lung cancer, and doing yearly chest x-rays hasn’t been shown to be effective.

To date, there is no one test considered the “gold standard” for early lung cancer detection. Unfortunately, lung cancer is most often diagnosed after signs or symptoms develop, at a late stage, when the cancer has already begun to spread.

3. Is there a relationship between diet and physical activity and lung cancer?

It is possible that individuals who are physically active have a 30 percent to 40 percent reduced risk of developing lung cancer. The possible link between physical activity and lung cancer is based on a limited number of studies that have found higher rates of lung cancer among those who are physically inactive compared to those who are active, after accounting for smoking status. The relationship between physical activity and lung cancer risk is less clear for women than it is for men. Research to date has not found any link between diet and lung cancer.

4. Does cigarette smoking effect men and women differently?

Although damaging for both men and women, research suggests that smoking is more damaging for women. Women are more susceptible to tobacco-induced cancer and heart disease than men. Compared to those who have never smoked, women aged 35-52 who smoke 20 cigarettes per day have six times the chance of having a heart attack, while men in the same age group have three times the chance of having a heart attack. This may be due to the fact that smoking appears to increase levels of “bad” cholesterol in women much more so than in men. Women who smoke are also more likely to develop chronic bronchitis, emphysema, and diabetes than men.

Joseph R. Betancourt, M.D.
Director of the Disparities Solution Center, Massachusetts General Hospital

Back to Top

Home Sponsors Past IssuesScreeningsLinks & ResourcesBay State Banner Home Subscribe