By Kay Quinn, Healthbeat Reporter
St. Louis, MO (KSDK) - Tobacco use is the number one cause of cancer. In this week's 8 Ways to Prevent Cancer, a look at how smoking causes disease, and the benefits to quitting.
"When you smoke you're inhaling literally thousands of chemicals and of those at least 60 can cause cancer," says Dr. Ramaswamy Govindan, a Siteman Cancer Center oncologist.
They do it by binding directly to the DNA of cells. DNA is a cell's instruction manual, and when that gets damaged, cancer can begin.
"When you stop smoking a lot of good things happen," says Dr. Govindan.
Within 20 minutes, your heart rate and blood pressure drop. 12 hours after quitting, carbon monoxide levels in your blood return to normal.
"There's no question when you stop smoking the lung capacity improves. In fact your risk for heart attack comes down quite dramatically," says Dr. Govindan.
But it's a year before your risk for heart attack is half that of a smoker's. Five years before risks of mouth, throat, esophageal and bladder cancer are cut in half, and a full ten years before your risk of dying from lung cancer drops to half that of a smoker.
"Given the knowledge we have today it's almost foolish to even think about smoking," says Dr. Govindan.
If you're young, quitting now will give you years of good health to look forward to. But putting down the cigarettes at any age can give you a quality of life you won't otherwise have.
"If you've been smoking for 20 or 30 years still it's never too late to stop smoking," says Dr. Govindan.
E-mail us your cancer prevention questions.