Tag Archives: Health

Why is the Threat of Cancer Not Enough to Stop People Smoking?

Cancer, a word the majority of the human race fears. If you smoke, the chances of developing Cancer is a lot higher than if you didn’t. Why then, do smokers still smoke?

In 2005 I had the misfortune of losing a very close aunt to Lung Cancer. I had reached the grand old age of 40 and had been lucky enough to never have experienced a death in the family.

My aunt had smoked since she was 17. Was she naive? No. Did she not understand the possible consequences of smoking? Hardly, she had been a nurse for over 35 years. So why then, did she continue to smoke, especially as she worked in a field where she came face to face with cancer patients on a day to day basis?

When she was first diagnosed with cancer it came as a big shock to all of us, as I expect it is to most people that get given this devastating news. The year previously she had been very ill with TB, and we all thought that her deteriorating health was down to a reappearance of that, how wrong we were. She gave up smoking straight away, and as she went through the grueling process of doctors, tests, scans and specialists, the rest of us smokers in the family continued to smoke. Oh not around my aunt of course, but continue we did. We had been dealt a terrible blow, we had up close and personal proof that smoking can lead to cancer. It’s not that we didn’t know that anyway, but when it never affects you directly it’s easy to shrug off the threat with excuses.

My aunts cancer was diagnosed as too far gone to be treatable, nothing could be done. She started smoking again. Three months later she was gone. Her funeral was the first one I had ever attended, I hoped is was my last.

And still we smoked.

Towards the end of that terrible year, November to be precise, we where yet again given bad news. My father had prostate cancer, and even though, he too was a smoker, we still managed to make excuses for the reasons he developed this disease, excuses like “a lot of men his age get prostate cancer, it’s quite common and easily treatable.”

Luckily, his cancer was treatable and he was cured. My father gave up smoking.

We, did not.

Three months later, after a routine blood test, my father was told he needed more tests, that something was wrong with his blood. A visit to the hospital revealed that the prostate cancer was back, but if that was not bad enough it had spread, he now had bowel cancer as well. I think for a brief period we all went into a state of shock followed by denial. This couldn’t be right, he doesn’t smoke anymore. It’s amazing how stupid you act when given bad news. A week later he’s in the hospital having an operation to remove his prostate and part of his bowl. My father had always looked young for his age, at 65 he looked more like 50, now, he looked awful, he lost over 2 stone in weight within a matter of weeks, he went from looking 50 to looking 90. He now looked like a little wizened old man, not my father at all. And during this terrible time, we still smoked.

A week after surgery the consultant met with both my parents to give them the news that not only did my father have cancer of the prostate and bowel, but that it had spread to his lungs and liver. The only thing that they could do for him now was to offer him chemotherapy, not as a means to a cure, but a way of giving him some more time, how much time, they couldn’t or wouldn’t say.

It’s now 2007 and luckily for us, my father is still here. He has his good days where you would never believe that there was anything wrong with him, then he has his bad days and you wished it was all over, just so he wouldn’t suffer anymore.

My father still doesn’t smoke.

We still do.

So why is it, even after two very painful experiences of the consequences of smoking, do we still smoke? What will it take to prove to myself and the other members of my family who smoke, that we need to quit. We have witnessed at firsthand the horror and pain cancer causes, we have felt the devastation and loss, but still it is not enough. Do we all believe that it will never happen to us, if so, why do we believe that. Why is it that certain members of the human race, a species that has evolved, adapted and developed into what it is today, simply refuse to believe what is in front of their eyes.

I’ve read all the warnings. I’ve seen all the advertising. I’ve been advised by doctors. I know all the dangers, an yet I still smoke.

Risk Factors and Causes of Liver Cancer

Liver cancer may not have as high a profile as some other forms of cancer but it is one of the most lethal forms of cancer. Most people do not survive beyond a year after being diagnosed with it. A peculiar fact about liver cancer is that its risk factors are mostly related to lifestyle choices and behavior such as alcohol use, sexual behavior, drug abuse, and occupation.

The most common risk factor/cause of liver cancer is spread from other cancer sites in the body (metastasis) but this causes Secondary liver cancer. The risk factors that are discussed here are those that result in Primary liver cancer which is cancer that originates in the liver.

Risk Factors for Liver Cancer

Sex: Liver cancer occurs more in males than females. This could be attributed to the fact that males are more likely to engage in behavior that predispose to developing liver cancer such as excessive alcoholic intake and use of anabolic steroids. (1) (2)

Age

Cancer of the liver is more common in older people in developed regions of the world. In contrast, it occurs more in younger persons in developing areas like Africa and Asia. (2)

Hepatitis

Chronic infection with hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV) both lead to cirrhosis and consequently, liver cancer. HCV infection is more likely to become chronic and is the more common cause of liver cancer in developed areas like the United States. HBV is the more prevalent risk factor in developing regions. Both viruses are transmitted through such means as unprotected sex, sharing needles (drug abusers) and contaminated blood transfusions. (1) (2) (3) (4)

Excessive Alcohol Intake

Prolonged alcohol abuse leads to irreversible liver damage and consequently, liver cirrhosis and liver cancer. (2) (4)

Aflatoxins

These are substances produced by fungi which grow on food such as wheat, corn, rice, peanuts, etc. Eating food contaminated with aflatoxins over a long period of time increases the risk of liver cancer. (1) (2) (3) (4)

Prolonged Use of Anabolic Steroids

Anabolic steroids are hormones used to increase muscle bulk by athletes and body builders. Long-term use increases the risk of liver cancer. (1) (3) (4)

Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease

In this condition, fats called triglycerides accumulate in the liver. It is seen in diabetic patients and obese people and leads to cirrhosis. It is associated with an increased risk of liver cancer. (1) (2) (4)

Exposure to Chemical Compounds:

Certain chemical compounds greatly increase the risk of liver cancer. They include vinyl chloride which is used in making plastics and arsenic which is found in water from some wells. Prolonged exposure to these compounds increases the risk of developing liver cancer. (1) (3) (4)

Liver Cirrhosis

Liver cirrhosis is the end result of several types of insult to the liver and is one of the most important risk factors for liver cancer. In this condition, damaged liver cells are replaced by non-functioning scar tissue. Cirrhosis can be caused by obesity, alcohol abuse, hepatitis infection, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, autoimmune diseases, and metabolic diseases of the liver. (1) (2) (3)

Smoking

This has not been totally proven but some scientists say there is a link between smoking tobacco and an increased risk of liver cancer. The effect of smoking is seen to be more pronounced in people who have hepatitis or abuse alcohol. (1) (3) (4)

Immunosuppression

Depressed immunity such as in people who suffer from HIV/AIDS or in transplant patients who take immunosuppressive medication can lead to an increased risk of developing liver cancer. This may be because they are more likely to be infected with hepatitis viruses. (3)

Contraceptive Pills

That contraceptive pills increase the risk of developing liver cancer is still a controversial issue. Contraceptive pills have been found to cause benign liver tumors called hepatic adenomas but it is not clear if this increases the risk of liver cancer. (1) (3)

Obesity

Studies have shown that liver cancer occurs more in overweight and obese people. This could be because obesity can lead to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and liver cirrhosis which are both risk factors for liver cancer. It could also be related to diabetes as diabetic people are commonly overweight. (1) (2) (3) (4)

Family History

A history of liver cancer in other family members especially first-degree relatives like a parent or sibling increases the risk of a person developing liver cancer. Other forms of cancer e.g. prostate cancer in such a relative may also increase this risk. (3)

Diabetes

Research has shown that people who suffer from diabetes are more prone to developing liver cancer than those who do not. Diabetes increases the risk two- to threefold. Diabetes is also associated with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and obesity. (1) (2) (3) (4)

Inherited Metabolic Diseases

These are rare diseases present at birth which cause an increased risk of liver cancer. An example is Hemochromatosis in which the body absorbs too much iron from food leading to liver cirrhosis. Other such conditions include Wilson’s disease, porphyria cutanea tarda, tyrosinemia, and glycogen storage diseases. (1) (2) (4)

Sources:

1. What the Risk Factors for Liver Cancer?

http://our.cancer.org/docroot/CRI/content/CRI_2_4_2X_What_are_the_risk_factors_for_liver_cancer_25.asp

2. Liver Cancer: Risk Factors

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/liver-cancer/DS00399/DSECTION=risk-factors

3. Risks and Causes of Liver Cancer

http://www.cancerhelp.org.uk/type/liver-cancer/about/risks-and-causes-of-liver-cancer

4. Liver Cancer: Risk Factors and Prevention

http://www.mskcc.org/mskcc/html/271.cfm