More than 55,000 Americans will develop cancer of the head and neck (most of which is preventable) this year; nearly 13,000 of them will die from it.
Tobacco is the most preventable cause of these deaths. In the United States, up to 200,000 people die each year from smoking-related illnesses. The good news is that this figure has decreased due to the increasing number of Americans who have quit smoking. The bad news is that some of these smokers switched to smokeless or spit tobacco, assuming it is a safe alternative. This is untrue - they are merely changing the site of the cancer risk from their lungs to their mouth. While lung cancer cases are down, cancers in the head and neck appear to be increasing. Cancer of the head and neck is curable if caught early. Fortunately, most head and neck cancers produce early symptoms. You should know the possible warning signs so you can alert your doctor to your symptoms as soon as possible. Remember - successful treatment of head and neck cancer can depend on early detection. Knowing and recognizing the signs of head and neck cancer can save your life.
As many as 90 percent of head and neck cancers arise after prolonged exposure to specific factors. Use of tobacco (cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco or snuff) and alcoholic beverages are closely linked with cancers of the mouth, throat, voice box and tongue. (In adults who neither smoke nor drink, cancer of the mouth and throat are nearly nonexistent.) Prolonged exposure to sunlight is linked with cancer of the lip and is also an established major cause of skin cancer.
What You Should Do: All of the symptoms and signs described here can occur with no cancer present. In fact, many times complaints of this type will be due to some other condition. But you can't tell without an examination. So, if they do occur, see your doctor–and be sure.
REMEMBER: When found early, most cancers in the head and neck can be cured with relatively little difficulty. Cure rates for these cancers could be greatly improved if people would seek medical advice as soon as possible. So play it safe. If you think you have one of the warning signs of head and neck cancer, see your doctor right away.
BE SAFE: See your doctor early! And practice health habits which will make these diseases unlikely to occur.
Secondhand smoke is a combination of the smoke from a burning cigarette and the smoke exhaled by a smoker. Also known as environmental tobacco smoke (ETS), it can be recognized easily by its distinctive odor. ETS contaminates
the air and is retained in clothing, curtains and furniture. Many people find ETS unpleasant, annoying, and irritating to the eyes and nose. More importantly, it represents a dangerous health hazard. Over 4,000 different chemicals have been identified in ETS, and at least 43 of these chemicals cause cancer.
Approximately 26 percent of adults in the United States currently smoke cigarettes, and 50 to 67 percent of children under five years of age live in homes with at least one adult smoker.
Although ETS is dangerous to everyone, fetuses, infants and children are at most risk. This is because ETS can damage developing organs, such as the lungs and brain.
You have just read how ETS harms the development of your child, but did you know that your risk of developing cancer from ETS is about 100 times greater than from outdoor cancer-causing pollutants? Did you know that ETS causes more than 3,000 nonsmokers to die of lung cancer each year? While these facts are quite alarming for everyone, you can stop your child's exposure to secondhand smoke right now.
There are two forms of smokeless tobacco: chewing tobacco and snuff. Chewing tobacco is usually sold as leaf tobacco (packaged in a pouch) or plug tobacco (in brick form). Both are placed between the cheek and gum. Users keep chewing tobacco in their mouths for several hours to get a continuous high from the nicotine in the tobacco.
Snuff is a powdered tobacco (usually sold in cans) that is put between the lower lip and the gum. It is also referred to as “dipping.” Just a pinch is all that’s needed to release the nicotine, which is then swiftly absorbed into the bloodstream, resulting in a quick high.
The chemicals contained in chew or snuff are poisonous and addictive. Every time smokeless tobacco is used, the body adjusts to the amount of tobacco needed to get a high. Consequently, the next time tobacco is used, the body will need a little more tobacco to get the same feeling. Holding an average-sized dip or chew in the mouth for 30 minutes gives the user as much nicotine as smoking four cigarettes.
In 1986, the U.S. Surgeon General declared that the use of smokeless tobacco “is not a safe substitute for smoking cigarettes. It can cause cancer and a number of noncancerous conditions and can lead to nicotine addiction and dependence.” Also since 1991, the National Cancer Institute has recommended that the public avoid the use of all tobacco products due to their high levels of nitrosamines.
In a recent study, cancer researchers found that oral tobacco products including lozenges and moist snuff are not a good alternative to smoking, since the levels of cancer-causing nitrosamines in smokeless tobacco and lozenges are very high. Some smokeless products contain the highest amounts of nicotine that can be readily absorbed by the body.
According to the 2000 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, young adults between the ages of 18-25 are the most common smokeless tobacco users. This trend may be influenced by innovative marketing tactics targeted at a younger audience.
Smokeless tobacco manufacturers are marketing flavored smokeless tobacco. A 2005 American Legacy Foundation and National Cancer Institute study noted, “Tobacco companies are using candy-like flavors and high tech delivery devices to turn a blowtorch into a flavored popsicle, misleading millions of youngsters to try a deadly product.”
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Copyright 2011 Main Line Health
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