Tobacco use and oral cancer


Tobacco use and oral cancer

Incisive Bite

by Dr Sharon Robinson

Sunday, April 26, 2020

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IN the next hour, 50 people will die because of tobacco. Tobacco is a risk factor for 25 diseases, and while its effects on health are well known, the scale of its impact on global disease may not be fully appreciated.

Tobacco use as a risk factor is expected to make a greater claim on health than any single disease. Studies indicate that there is a definitive link between the use of tobacco products and the development of oral cancer.

Tobacco products, heavy use of alcohol, and particularly the combined use of both, have been implicated as the main causes of oral cancer. A typical high-risk profile for oral cancer is male, over age 40, who is a heavy user of tobacco and/or alcohol.


Cigarettes, cigars, and pipe tobacco are made from dried tobacco leaves, to which ingredients are added for flavour and to make smoking more pleasant. The smoke from these products is a complex mixture of chemicals produced by the burning of tobacco and its additives.

Tobacco smoke is made up of more than 7,000 chemicals, including over 70 known to cause cancer (carcinogens). Some of these substances lead to heart and lung diseases, and all of them can be deadly.

You might be surprised to know that some of the chemicals found in tobacco smoke include: • Acetone – found in nail polish remover;

• Acetic acid – ingredient in hair dye; •

Ammonia – common household cleaner;

• Arsenic – used in rat poison;

• Benzene – found in rubber cement;

• Butane – used in lighter fluid;

• Cadmium – active component in battery acid;

• Carbon monoxide – released in car exhaust fumes;

• Formaldehyde – embalming fluid;

• Hexamine – found in barbecue lighter fluid;

• Lead – used in batteries;

• Naphthalene – ingredient in moth balls;

• Methanol – a major component of rocket fuel;

• Nicotine – used as insecticide;

• Tar – material for paving roads;

• Toluene – used to manufacture paint;

Tobacco smoke also contains tar and the poisonous gases carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide. The ingredient that produces the effect people are looking for is nicotine — an addictive drug and one of the harshest chemicals in tobacco smoke.

The tobacco leaves used to make cigarettes and cigars contain radioactive materials, the amount depends on the soil in which the plants were grown and fertilisers used. This means that the smoke contains small amounts of radioactive material, too, which smokers take into their lungs as they inhale.

These radioactive particles build up in the lungs, and over time can lead to a big dose of radiation. This may be another key factor in smokers getting lung cancer.


Yes. Smoking causes cancers of the nasopharynx (upper throat), nasal cavity, paranasal sinuses, lip, larynx (voice box), mouth, pharynx (throat), oesophagus (swallowing tube), lungs, and bladder.

Smoking can cause cancer and then block your body from fighting it as:

• Poisons in cigarette smoke can weaken the body's immune system, making it harder to kill cancer cells. When this happens, cancer cells keep growing without being stopped.

• Poisons in tobacco smoke can damage or change a cell's DNA. DNA is the cell's “instruction manual” that controls a cell's normal growth and function.

When DNA is damaged, a cell can begin growing out of control and create a cancer tumour.

Dr Sharon Robinson DDS has offices at the Dental Place Cosmetix Spa, located at shop #5, Winchester Business Centre, 15 Hope Road, Kingston 10. Dr Robinson is an adjunct lecturer at the University of Technology, Jamaica, School of Oral Health Sciences. She may be contacted at 630-4710. Like their Facebook page, Dental Place Cosmetix Spa.

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