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Health Concerns

Smoking and Throat Cancer

Smoking causes throat cancer, also known as laryngeal cancer.1,2 Read more about throat cancer...

Facts

The risk of throat cancer increases with the length of time and the amount a person smokes.3,4,5 This risk is further multiplied among smokers who also drink alcohol.6,7,8

Thirty-six percent (36%) of people diagnosed with throat cancer are expected to die within 5 years after diagnosis.9 There were more than 415 deaths from throat cancer in Canada in 2007, with four times more males than females dying of this cancer.10

Research has shown that in 2002, about 60% of throat cancer deaths in Canada were due to smoking.11

These health warning messages for cigarettes and little cigars address throat cancer:

Man with a hole in his throat due to cancer of the larynx
Man with a hole in his throat due to cancer of the larynx
 

What is throat cancer?

Throat cancer, also known as laryngeal cancer, is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the larynx, leading to the formation of a tumour.

Most throat cancers start in the area of the larynx where the vocal cords are located. The larynx is a small tube that contains the vocal cords and connects the back of the throat to the trachea, which leads to the lungs. The larynx plays an important role in breathing, swallowing and talking.

Early symptoms of throat cancer can include hoarseness of voice as well as difficulty speaking, breathing and eating.

Treatment for laryngeal cancer can involve radiation, chemotherapy and in some cases surgery. Surgery is required when the cancer has destroyed all or part of the vocal cords and the voice box needs to be removed. Rehabilitation can involve the placement of a hole in the throat, which allows the passage of air for breathing and speaking.

How does smoking increase the risk of throat cancer?

Some of the chemicals contained in tobacco smoke cause, initiate or promote cancer.12,13 When inhaled, these chemicals cause genetic changes in cells of the throat, which can lead to the development of throat cancer.

Smoking increases the risk of throat cancer by exposing the larynx to these carcinogenic chemicals during inhalation.

The benefits of quitting

When people stop smoking, the risk of throat cancer starts to decrease. Ten to fifteen years after quitting, the risk is reduced by 60% to 70%, and continues to decrease after 20 or more years of not smoking.14,15,16

Quitting is more effective than other measures to avoid the development of throat cancer and other smoking-related diseases.

Need help to quit? Call the pan-Canadian quitline toll-free at 1-866-366-3667.

References

1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Health Consequences of Smoking. A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: 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; 2004. P.62.

2. National Cancer Institute. Cigars: Health Effects and Trends. Smoking and Tobacco Control Monograph No. 9. Bethesda (MD): U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute, 1998. P.127-130.

3. Lubin JH, et al. Total Exposure and Exposure Rate Effects for Alcohol and Smoking and Risk of Head and Neck Cancer: A Pooled Analysis of Case-Control Studies. American Journal of Epidemiology. 2009;170(8):937-47.

4. Ansary-Moghaddam A, Huxley RR, Lam TH, Woodward M. Risk of Upper Aerodigestive Tract Cancer Associated with Smoking with and without Concurrent Alcohol Consumption. Mount Sinai Journal of Medicine. 2009;76:392-403.

5. International Agency for Research on Cancer. World Health Organization. IARC Monographs on the Evaluation of Carcinogens Risks to Humans: Tobacco Smoke and Involuntary Smoking. Vol. 83. Lyon (France): International Agency for Research on Cancer; 2004. P.364-66.

6. International Agency for Research on Cancer. World Health Organization. IARC Monographs on the Evaluation of Carcinogens Risks to Humans: Alcohol Drinking. Vol. 44. Summary of Data Reported and Evaluation. Lyon (France): International Agency for Research on Cancer; 1988. P.1-8.

7. Talamini R, Bosetti C, La Vecchia C, Dal Maso L, Levi F, Bidoli E, Negri E, et al. Combined effect of tobacco and alcohol on laryngeal cancer risk: a case-control study. Cancer Causes & Control. 2002;13(10):957-64.

8. Menvielle G, Luce D, Goldberg P, Bugel I, Leclerc A. Smoking, alcohol drinking and cancer risk for various sites of the larynx and hypopharynx. A case-control study in France. European Journal of Cancer Prevention 2004;13(3):165-72.

9. Canadian Cancer Society's Steering Committee: Canadian Cancer Statistics 2009. Toronto: Canadian Cancer Society, 2011.

10. Statistics Canada. Table 102-0552 - Deaths and mortality rate, by selected grouped causes and sex, Canada, provinces and territories, annual (2007), CANSIM (database). 2011 [updated 2010 Nov 15; cited 2011 Mar 15]. Available from:
Next link will take you to another Web site http://www5.statcan.gc.ca/cansim/a05?lang=eng&id=1020552.

11. Rehm J, Baliunas D, Brochu S, Fischer B, Gnam W, Patra J, et al. The costs of substance abuse in Canada 2002. Ottawa: Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse; 2006.

12. Rodgman, A., Perfetti, T.A. The chemical components of tobacco and tobacco smoke. (2009). CRC press, Florida, USA. ISBN 978-1-4200-7883-1.

13. Hecht SS. Research Opportunities Related to Establishing Standards for Tobacco Products Under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. Nicotine & Tobacco Research [http://ntr.oxfordjournals.org/] Commentary [accepted November 25, 2010]. Web Published 2011 January;10.1093/ntr/ntq216. Available from:
Next link will take you to another Web site http://ntr.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2011/01/09/ntr.ntq216.full.pdf

14. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Health Benefits of Smoking Cessation. A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: 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;1990. P.135.

15. International Agency for Research on Cancer. IARC Handbooks of Cancer Prevention, Tobacco Control, Vol. 11: Reversal of Risk After Quitting Smoking. Lyon (France); 2007. P.145.

16. Bosetti C, Garavello W, Gallus S, :La Vecchia C. Effects of smoking cessation on the risk of laryngeal cancer: An overview of published studies. Oral Oncology. 2006;42:866-872.