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Updated Risks of Smoking & Cancer: February 15, 2013

The link between smoking and lung cancer may be the most recognized, but the truth is smoking can cause cancer almost anywhere in the body.

“Fifteen, eighteen years ago, probably 90-95% of my new cancer patients were smokers. And their cancers were most of the time caused by the smoking,” says Dr. Phillip Andrews, otolaryngologist on the Lee Memorial Health System medical staff.

Though still a risk for cancers of the mouth, throat, voice box and esophagus, smoking has some company.

“Now about 45% are non-smokers and the majority of those are caused by HPV,” says Dr. Andrews.

The tobacco products-cancer connection has changed over the years. Researchers now find the smoking risk is rising in bladder cancers. It may be related to a change in cigarette ingredients. While there have been decreases in tar and nicotine, carcinogens associated with bladder cancer have increased.

“Smoking increases the chances of bladder tumor 4 to 7 times, compared to a patient that didn’t smoke,” says Dr. Alejandro Mirando-Sousa, urologist on Lee Memorial Health System’s medical staff.

As the lungs absorb smoke, it passes toxins into the bloodstream.

“And because the blood is filtered by the kidney of these chemicals and the byproduct of smoking will be urinated and left in the bladder. So it’s a constant bathing of chemicals that will make changes in the urinary tract,” says Dr. Mirando-Sousa.

Kicking the habit reduces the risk of developing and dying from cancer, but it takes years.

“Studies show you have to stop smoking 17-20 years for your risk to go back to baseline,” says Dr. Mirando-Sousa.

Overall the number of people with bladder cancer has remained steady, as more people get the message and fewer people are lighting up.