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How Can Smoking and Vaping Impact Cancer?

How Can Smoking and Vaping Impact Cancer?

Posted on: 09 Dec 2022

Cigarettes, vape and smoke.

When most people think about the health risks from smoking and vaping, they think about lung cancer. But smoking is also a major risk factor for bladder cancer and kidney cancer. In fact, smoking is the most important risk factor for bladder cancer.

There are about 7,000 chemicals in tobacco smoke. More than 70 of them are known to cause cancer. When a person smokes, the smoke is drawn into the lungs. The chemicals then make their way into the bloodstream, where they are filtered by the kidneys.  The harmful chemicals sit in the kidneys, and raise the risk of kidney cancer.

The kidneys filter about 200 quarts of fluid every 24 hours. Some of the fluid returns to the bloodstream but about two quarts are removed from the body in the form of urine. The urine is stored in the bladder for about two to four hours at a time before it is excreted. During that time, these harmful chemicals affect the lining of the bladder and raise the risk of bladder cancer.

People who smoke are at least three times as likely to get bladder cancer as people who don't smoke. Smoking causes about half of all bladder cancers. People who are current smokers are at greater risk of bladder cancer than people who have quit smoking.

Smoking can also raise the risk of a number of non-cancerous urologic conditions. These include:

  • Kidney stones
  • Interstitial cystitis, or painful bladder syndrome
  • Incontinence (leaking urine and overactive bladder)
  • Infertility
  • Erectile dysfunction

What about use of e-cigarettes, or vaping? Vaping has not been available for all that long. Because studies involving cancer can take years, or even decades, there is still much that is not known about the health effects of vaping. Some people believe vaping is safer than smoking traditional cigarettes, but research suggests vaping may contribute to an increased risk of bladder cancer.

One review study showed that many cancer-causing chemicals with a known link to bladder cancer are present in the urine of e-cigarette users.  The researchers say there is growing evidence that people who vape may have similar cancer-causing chemicals in their urine to people who use traditional cigarettes.

In another study, researchers tested how e-cigarette smoke may damage the bladder in humans. They found e-cigarette smoke led to DNA harm in the bladder lining. DNA harm is associated with cancer.

If you smoke, talk to your doctor about ways to quit so you can lower your risk of getting bladder cancer, kidney cancer and other urologic conditions.

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