7 Compelling Reasons to Quit Smoking Today
From bone marrow to stomach lining, lungs to bladder—smoking brings a world of pain to your body.
By Alonna Friedman, SELF
Here’s the happy news first: “Studies have not yet shown a direct cause-and-effect relationship between cancer and stress,” says Terri Ades, R.N., director of cancer information at the American Cancer Society in Atlanta. That said, a high-stress lifestyle can contribute to risky behaviors—smoking, overeating and drinking too much alcohol—that help set the stage for cancer.
So, let’s tackle that smoking issue first. If you need a nudge in the right direction, here are 7 nasty consequences of smoking.
Ever wonder why they’re called cancer sticks?
The connection between cigarettes and lung cancer is obvious. But the truth is, “Smoking reaches every cell in your body,” says Michael Thun, M.D., vice president of epidemiology for the American Cancer Society. “There are 4,000 chemicals in tobacco smoke—more than 50 of them are known to lead to cancer.” That’s why smoking is linked with an increased risk for at least 15 types of cancer and accounts for at least 30 percent of all cancer deaths. Here’s what happens to your body on cigarettes.
Your lips, mouth, nose, sinuses, throat, larynx
All of these areas are suffused with smoke as you inhale and exhale. They get exposed again when coughing brings up chemicals trapped in mucus from the lungs.
As soon as you inhale, they fill with chemicals and carcinogens that the air sacs, tissues and mucus then absorb.
The tissue lining your esophagus, stomach and entire gastrointestinal tract is bathed in toxic chemicals that move through your bloodstream and digestive system after you swallow saliva and mucus. Consider this: Smokers are up to 60 percent more likely to develop stomach cancer than nonsmokers.
Your pancreas, kidneys and bladder
Your bloodstream carries the chemicals to all of your organs, but these three organs are particularly vulnerable. The pancreas absorbs the toxins from blood and bile. The kidneys filter out those dangerous substances from the blood and transfer the toxin-laden urine to your bladder, where it sits until expelled. Smoking is the number-one risk factor for developing bladder cancer.
Toxins from cigarettes accumulate in cervical mucus via the bloodstream. Smoking also worsens the effects of human papillomavirus, the virus that is the main cause of cervical cancer. These effects may be why female smokers are almost twice as likely to develop the disease.
Your bone marrow
Chemicals can even seep from the bloodstream into your bone marrow, where developing white blood cells can be affected, raising a smoker’s odds of getting leukemia. Frightened? There’s nothing like a little fear to spur a big change.