Cancer Causing Chemicals – How Smoking and Alcohol May Contribute to Skin Cancer

The fact that cigarettes contain cancer causing chemicals is not anything new. For years, cancer experts have been advising the public to kick the habit and decrease their cancer risk. The connection between alcohol and cancer, however, is not as well known. Skin cancer is only one of the many cancers that can be caused from smoking and alcohol use.

Actinic cheilitis is a condition that affects the lips. Affected lips become puffy, dry, cracked, or ulcerated and change color, often to bright red or white. It is considered to be a pre-cancerous condition. In six to ten percent of cases, it develops into squamous cell carcinoma. The condition can affect people of all ages, regardless of sex, but typically strikes men over fifty. Risk increases with age. Actinic cheilitis is caused by a lifetime accumulation of UV damage. Smoking, alcohol, and poor oral hygiene are also believed to increase the risk of this condition.

Research has shown that cigarette smokes contains as much as four thousand chemicals. Of those, over sixty are carcinogens. Every cigarette smoked exposes the skin and other organs in the body to numerous toxic substances that increase the risk of developing cancer.

According to Dr. Jan Nico Bouwes Bavinck, one of the leading researchers in a study on smoking and skin cancer at Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands, smoking more than triples the risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma. The study’s data indicated that smoking may inhibit immune system function, leaving skin vulnerable to the cancer causing chemicals found in cigarette smoke.

Smoking reduces available oxygen to the skin. Statistics say that oxygen supply to skin is decreased for close to an hour after smoking for just ten minutes. Skin cells are damaged by the deprivation. Nicotine’s effect of narrowing blood vessels and reducing circulation also damages skin cells. Smoking also thins the skin and interferes with healing.

Experts say that alcohol is the second largest risk factor for oral cancer. While exactly how alcohol functions is unexplained, there are theories. It is believed that the liver damage brought on my alcohol causes cellular changes. These cellular changes may lead to modifications in the tissues of the mouth and throat.

A second theory is that alcohol increases hormone levels. There have been a large number of studies showing the link between increased levels of certain hormones and the incidence of cancer. According to statistics by the American Cancer Society, drinkers are six times more likely to be diagnosed with oral cancers than those who abstain from alcohol use.

When alcohol is combined with smoking, the incidence of cancer is even higher. Cells dehydrated by alcohol are more vulnerable to cigarette’s cancer causing chemicals. According to experts, you can lower your risk of cancers by giving up cigarettes and reducing or stopping alcohol use. It takes approximately ten years for your risk level to return to that of a nonsmoker and nondrinker.

If you think you are safe because you only drink or smoke socially, think again. As few as two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women is enough to increase your risk. With so many cancer causing chemicals in cigarettes, a single smoke can do damage to the skin and increase your risk of skin cancer.

by A Hurrell

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