How Does Smoking Affect Your Throat?


Cigarette smoke contains thousdands of chemicals

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), cigarette smoke has approximately 4,000 chemical agents. When you smoke, these chemicals enter your mouth and throat. Many of these chemicals are cancer-causing agents (carcinogens) such as benzene, butane, arsenic, ammonia, methoprene, cadmium, formaldehyde and tar. For instance, tar contains polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and is extremely toxic. Tar causes stains in smoker's teeth and fingers. Despite the misconception, nicotine does not contribute to cancer.

Carcinogens inhaled during smoking might lead to throat cancer

Smoking is a major risk factor for throat cancer. Smoking accounts for 75 to 80% of cases of throat cancer. Smokers are 2 to 5 times more likely to develop throat cancers in comparison to the general population.

There are several types of throat cancer, including nasopharyngeal, laryngeal (cancer of the voice box), oropharyngeal, hypopharyngeal and glottic cancer (cancer of the vocal cords).

The carcinogens in cigarette smoke may damage the genetic material (DNA) of cells in tissues in the throat. The heat carried by the smoke into the throat is also a contributing factor to throat cancer.

Under normal conditions, the damaged cells are often repaired. However, in some cases, the damage can not be repaired and leads to gene mutation. Some mutations are particularly dangerous if they involve genes that control cell growth and cell division. A cell may lose its ability to control growth and undergo cell division excessively. This eventually leads to a tumor.

In addition to throat cancer, smoking also increases the risk of lung, kidney, stomach, bladder and pancreatic cancer.

Smoking affects oral and dental health

Smokers often have stained teeth. In most cases, smoker stains can not be removed by normal tooth-brushing and have to be removed by special dental treatment.

Smoking reduces the resistance of gum to plaque bacteria. Furthermore, the blood flow to the gum is significantly reduced due to smoking. Consequently, smoking increases risk of gum diseases.

Smoking can cause sore throat and excessive coughing

As mentioned above, cigarette smoke contains a large number of chemicals. Many of them can cause inflammation of the respiratory tract. This leads to swelling, redness and elevated production of mucus. Smokers therefore often have laryngitis (inflammation of the larynx). Vocal cords are damaged, which causes a hoarse voice. In some extreme cases, laryngitis can cause total loss of voice. Some smokers end up with polyps on their vocal cords.

The vocal cord is still damaged even after smoking has ceased. Surgery maybe required in order to repair the vocal cord and to remove inflammatory lesions. Many singers lose their voices due to smoking, even when surgical measures are taken.

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