How much cancer does smoking cause
Cancer occurs when cells in the body grow uncontrollably and form lumps of tissue (apart from leukaemia, which is a cancer of the blood) known as malignant tumours. While there are a number of known causes of cancer, tobacco smoking is the greatest preventable cause.
How does smoking cause cancer?
Tobacco smoke contains over 60 cancer causing chemicals, known as carcinogens. When smoke is inhaled through the mouth, throat and into the lungs, the carcinogens in the smoke are absorbed through the lining of the lungs into the bloodstream. They are then distributed by the blood and the lymphatic system throughout the body causing cells in particular organs to multiply uncontrollably; that is, to become cancerous.
An example of one of the carcinogenic substances in tobacco smoke is Benzo(a)pyrene, which damages the all important P53 gene. This gene plays a vital role in maintaining the body's health by preventing uncontrolled cell multiplication.
- Smoking causes 20% to 30% of all human cancers. (1)
- World-wide there are an estimated 1.5 million new cases of lung cancer each year. Approximately 80% of these new cases are caused by tobacco smoking. (2)
- Smoking caused an estimated 11,308 new cases of cancer in Australia in 2005. (3)
- There were 8,155 deaths from smoking related cancers in Australia in 2005. Lung cancer was responsible for 5,738 of these deaths. (3)
- Of all Australian States and Territories, in 2003 smoking-related cancer deaths were highest in the Northern Territory (53% higher than the national rate). (4)
- In NSW in 2008 there were 13,213 deaths from cancer, 3,260 new cases of lung cancer and 2,664 deaths from lung cancer. (5)
- In NSW in 2008 tobacco smoking was the most common risk factor for cancers of the lung, bladder, cervix, head and neck, lip, pancreas, oesophagus, bowel and kidney. (5)
- The estimated percentages of particular cancers that can be attributed to smoking for both men and women are shown in the table below: (6)
|Cancer Type||Men (%)||Women (%)|
- International Agency for Research on Cancer World cancer report. 2008.
- Cancer Institute NSW Cancer in New South Wales: Incidence and Mortality Report. 2008.
- Australian Institute of Health and Welfare Cancer in Australia: an overview, 2008.
- Australian Institute of Health and Welfare Cancer in Australia: an overview, 2010
- Tobacco in Australia: Facts and Issues, 2008
- A Report of the (US) Surgeon General. How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease: The Biology and Behavioural Basis for Smoking-Attributable Disease. 2010.
1. U.S.Department of Health and Human Services. (2010); How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease: The Biology and Behavioral Basis for Smoking-Attributable Disease: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, G.A.: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health.
2. Boyle P, Levin B (Eds). World Cancer Report. IARC Press. Lyon 2008
3. AIHW (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare) & AACR (Australasian Association of Cancer Registries) 2008. Cancer in Australia: an overview, 2008. Cancer series no. 46. Cat. no. CAN 42. Canberra: AIHW. www.aihw.gov.au/publications/can/ca08/ca08.pdf (PDF Size 532 KB)
4. Begg S, Vos T, Barker B, Stevenson C, Stanley L, Lopez AD, 2007. The burden of disease and injury in Australia 2003. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Canberra 2007.
5. Tracey E, Kerr T, Dobrovic A, Currow D. Cancer In NSW: Incidence and Mortality Report 2008. Sydney: Cancer Institute NSW, August 2010.
6. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) & Australasian Association of Cancer Registries (AACR) 2004. Cancer in Australia 2001. AIHW cat. no. CAN 23. Canberra: AIHW (Cancer Series no. 28).