Five types of digestive cancer have been linked to tobacco use

Quebec Council for Tobacco and Health observes Tobacco-Free Week

When most people think of the harm to health caused by tobacco smoking, what’s perhaps more likely than anything else to come to mind are breathing-related health problems such as emphysema and lung cancer.

But how many are aware that smoking, as well as secondary smoke, can also cause five different types of cancers affecting the body’s digestive system?

According to the Quebec Council for Tobacco and Health (CQTS), which marked Quebec Tobacco-Free Week recently, tobacco smoking and secondary smoke account for up to 44 per cent of the development of digestive system cancers, including cancers of the liver, rectum, pancreas, stomach and esophagus.

Digestive system cancers

“In Quebec, a significant proportion of digestive system cancers are linked to tobacco smoking,” Annie Papageorgiou, executive-director of the CQTS, said during an online webcast. “These cancers have serious consequences. When you think about it, the risk is high, especially since these cancers can be avoided. We must inform and protect people from the harm done by tobacco.”

Tobacco smoking and secondary smoke account for up to 44 per cent of the development of digestive system cancers

According to the CQTS, one liver cancer in four, one pancreas cancer in five, more than one colorectal cancer n 10, one stomach cancer in five and nearly half the cancers of the esophagus are caused by tobacco smoking.

In addition to this, digestive system cancers are associated with low survival rates. Generally speaking, these types of cancer aren’t detected early enough because symptoms are usually not very apparent.

Quality of life impacted

“Blood in the stool and cancerous masses only appear during late stages of digestive system cancers,” said Dr. Nicolas Benoît, a Montérégie-based gastroenterologist who took part in the webcast. When such cancers don’t prove fatal, they often lead to other consequences that limit living life to the fullest.

For those who’ve smoked for years and don’t think they can quit, the message from the CQTS is that giving up tobacco has long-lasting benefits that safeguard you from digestive system cancers.

Quebec film, TV and stage star Patrice Godin, who was the CQTS’s official spokesperson for the anti-smoking campaign for a second consecutive year, delivered a personal testimonial on his own struggles to quit smoking.

Shortens the lifespan

“On average, smoking reduces a lifespan by 10 years,” he noted. “That’s a lot. That’s why I was looking forward to being back for a second year as spokesperson. There is still so much work to be done to control tobacco abuse in Quebec. It can be through quitting tobacco, helping someone else to stop or raising the awareness of a young person to the importance of not starting to smoke.”

“Effectively under the current circumstances, it is more important than ever to watch out for one’s health,” added Annie Papageorgiou, noting the risks of other types of cancer in conjunction with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Smoking and COVID-19

“Apart from digestive system cancers, tobacco abuse also affects the respiratory system and smokers are at a greater risk of coming down with a more severe form of COVID-19 than non-smokers,” she said.

According to the CQTS, last year in Quebec 17 per cent of the population 12 years of age and older smoked, for a total of 1.2 million persons. That represents more than one person in six. In this respect, Quebec ranks higher than the Canadian average, which stands at 15.8 per cent of Canadians who are smokers.

Want to speak with a specialist to help you quit smoking? Call the I QUIT NOW helpline. It’s free. Telephone support to quit smoking is available from the CQTS at 1-866-527-7383. Monday to Thursday: 8 A.M. to 9 P.M. Friday: 8 A.M. to 8 P.M.