Relationship between Smoking and Lung Cancer

Smoking does not cause lung cancer; however, it is highly correlated.


Throughout the years, research has been used to show that cigarette smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer. However, the same researchers clearly points out that only 14% of lung cancer cases result from cigarette smoking. This begs the question, what causes the remaining 86% of lung cancer cases? To bring out this more clearly, our attention is taken by the fact that despite making smokers ten times higher at risk of getting lung cancer compared to non smokers, smoking is only seen as a catalyst for lung cancer cases and it is not the main cause of this kind of cancer (Shopland 1982). In the United Kingdom, research shows that one out every four people dying of cancer related deaths is a smoker. The same research from the U.K goes ahead to say that smoking only accounts for a small percentage of 20 of all cancer related deaths. Through these researches, researchers say that “Smoking is by far the most important preventable cause of cancer in the world”. Furthermore, researchers from the U.K and the U.S illustrate that it is plain to see that there is a higher reason of lung cancer compared to smoking (Ojeda 2002).

Cancer/Death Cases Resulting from Smoking

Smoking, having been eliminated as the core reason for lung cancer, is responsible for other types of cancer and constitutes the highest rate of fatality in the world today. In the U.K alone, smoking is reported to take lives five times more the number of people dying from murder, road accidents, HIV, overdoses as well as suicide put together. According to Cigarette smoking and cancer question and answers (2004), some of the cancers that are associated with cigarette smoking are cancers of liver, stomach, esophagus, larynx, bladder, bowel, pharynx, leukemia, kidney, breast, cervix as well as pancreases’. Despite all these fatal cases that are associated with smoking, they can all be prevented if one chooses to quit smoking.

Another fact that is coming out clearly from research is that not all smokers eventually die out of cancer; however, many of them die in their middle age (Egendorf 2001). The reason that has been given for this is that having been established that smoking is not the core reason for cancer, it greatly increases the risk of getting cancer, which eventually leads to their deaths. In order to understand how smoking causes cancer, it is important to understand that one stick of cigarette contains tobacco that is made up of substances that have been known to cause cancer. Studies show that one stick of cigarette constitutes of slightly more than seventy of these substances. Upon smoking, these substances enter into the human body and get deposited into the lungs. From there, they get distributed all over the body and science shows that they contain certain chemicals that alter the different gene patterns that result into cancerous cells that cause cancer. This gives the answer to where the 86% of cancer cases come from, genes.

The 15q24 Susceptibility Locus

Having found out that gene causes the remaining 86% of cancer related deaths, researchers went ahead to study how genes and cancer are related. The question then becomes, “what specific genetic factors are involved in an increased risk of lung cancer?” Several groups of scientists carried out research programs to try and answer this question. In their research, they discovered a chromosome, which they referred to as chromosome 15, which is highly mutable (Shopland 1982). Once those seventy or so substances enter the lungs and spread all over the body, the end result is the interference of the DNA and result into changed gene patterns. Chromosome 15, out of its high mutability factor, due to the changed gene patterns becomes mutated and in turn intensifies the risk a smoker stands of getting lung cancer. This is significant since the risk of getting lung cancer is increased from 30% to 80%. In addition to this, the scientists’ talks of a general 20-23% lung cancer risk if the smoker undergoes this mutation. However, this is dependent of whether the smoker has either one or two copies of the 15q24 susceptibility locus (Egendorf 2001). By definition, a susceptibility locus, based on numerical evidence, is an area where mutations of one or more genes are affected in the chromosome and are thought to be present.

The findings derived from these studies by one group show that there is a strong relationship between lung cancer and the varied 15q24 locus. In addition to this, the findings also show a strong relationship between the varied 15q24 locus and the number of cigarettes an individual smokes on a daily average (Ojeda 2002). The conclusion derived from the latter findings brings the argument that nicotine dependence and lung cancer form the basis of genetics. To understand this clearly, genes play a major role in why people become addicts to tobacco as well as lung cancer development in individuals. The other groups show that in addition to gene being central in cigarette smoking as well as cancer developments, single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) difference is strongly interrelated with risks associated with lung cancer. Their conclusion shows that for smokers with the SNP genotype, their risk of developing lung cancer is much higher than those with other genotypes (Shopland 1982). The much difference between the first group and the second is seen in the argument that the second group of scientists present. In their argument, these scientists believed that the varied genes that were found on the 15q24 locus were highly seen to play a contributory role in lung cancers where presence of nicotine acetylcholine was evident and this was the stimulant for growth of tumors that caused lung cancer contrary to the belief that nicotine addiction was as a result of indirect casual role.

In order to prove that lung cancer was not only the resultant effect of smoking, a test was conducted to prove that even nonsmokers run a risk of lung cancer. In this study, it became apparent that the varied 15q24 locus still had the same role to play in nonsmokers, though in a lower proportion compared to smokers. In this study, the researchers were able to prove that nicotine addiction was not the casual role for lung cancer and that the relationship that exists between lung cancer and genes is direct (Ojeda 2002).

Although how it happens still remains a mystery to many scientists, researches are still being conducted to find out more of this relationship between cancer and smoking. Battle of facts still rages on between scientists on whether or not lung cancer and 15q24 susceptibility locus is directly related and findings show that smokers with SNV genotype run a greater risk of developing lung cancer (Egendorf 2001). These findings also show that even though an individual may not be a carrier to this type of variation, they are still prone to this type of disease and everybody is at risk, however, more to smokers compared to nonsmokers and concludes by stating that with or without this variation, smoking increases the risk of lung cancer ten times more than in those who do not smoke.




Cigarette smoking and cancer question and answers..(2004). Bethesda, Md.: National Institute

of Health, National Cancer Institute.

Egendorf, L. K. (2001). Smoking. San Diego, Calif.: Greenhaven Press.

Ojeda, A. (2002). Smoking. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven Press.

Shopland, D. R. (1982). The Health consequences of smoking: cancer : a report of the Surgeon

General.. Rockville, Md.: U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, Public Health

Service, Office on Smoking and Health ; Washington, D.C. : For sale by the Supt. Of

Docs., U.S. G.P.O..


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