Smoking is the second cause of death in the world. Some of the dangerous consequences of smoking, are at least 17 tumors. These may be lung cancer, mouth and throat cancer, and tumors affecting esophagus, pancreas, colon and rectum, bladder, prostate, kidneys, breasts and ovaries, and some types of leukemia. Smoking also causes some cardiovascular (myocardial infarction) and cerebrovascular (cerebral ictus) diseases. Asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, periodontitis, female sterility, male impotence and many other disorders are among them.

Doctor Giulia Veronesi, Supervisor of the Robotic Surgery – Thoracic Surgery Section at Humanitas, spoke about the fight against smoking and the importance of an early diagnosis for lung cancer, in an interview for La7’s program “Time for health”.

Carcinogenic substances in cigarettes

“Contrary to what somebody believes, the carcinogenic substance present in cigarettes, is not nicotine. The dangerous substance is tar, and thousands of other substances that the combustion of tobacco releases. Nicotine is an alkaloid naturally present in tobacco’s leaves, and its biological function is protecting the plant from herbivores. In fact, it is a toxic substance. However, in limited doses, it activates some neurotransmitters in the brain. Thus, it is effective in inducing a cigarette-smoking addiction”, Doctor Veronesi explains.

“This addiction is both physical and mental. Even after having quit with the intake of nicotine, symptoms require some weeks to disappear”.

Stress and smoking

Another popular belief to dispel pertains to the link between stress and smoking. “It is not true that smoking reduces stress. On the contrary, scientific data have shown that people who quit smoking experience more stress. The addiction is stressful itself. The assumption of nicotine and the other toxic substances is stressful as well”, the doctor points out.

Quit smoking after a cancer diagnosis

“Patients with lung cancer should definitely quit smoking. Those who need a surgical operation are far less likely to develop post-operative complications if they stopped smoking at least a month before the surgery. Patients with a severe disease respond well to treatments and are less likely to die if they are non-smokers”, the doctor explains. Thus, quitting smoking is always good for your health, even if you were diagnosed with lung cancer.

Prevention checks

“Heavy smokers who are older than 50 and smoked for more than 30 years should ask for a low-contrast CT thoracic scan. Valid, confirmed evidence show that a screening CT scan reduces mortality in smokers. These data come mainly from American studies, even though European studies brought confirmations. The CT has to be done every year or less frequently, according to the personal risk  depending on age and exposure.

We are trying to pinpoint tumors before they start showing symptoms, when they are still 1-2 cm large and when a minimally invasive surgical operation can treat them, with high chances of survival.

In the US, screenings for heavy smokers are customary, so we are striving to get the same result in Europe too”, Doctor Veronesi pointed out.