Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center
Cigars and Cancer Risk
Peer Review Status: Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center, Cancer Information Service
In recent years, cigar use has increased by more than 50%, especially among male teenagers and young adult males. Cigar use has increased nearly five times among women and appears to be increasing among adolescent females as well. Health warnings are not included on many cigars and may lead to the impression that they do not present a health risk. However, scientific studies show that cigar smokers are at increased risk for several cancers as well as other health problems.
Cigar smokers are at increased risk of developing cancers of the lips, tongue, mouth, throat (oral cavity), larynx, lung and esophagus. The scientific evidence strongly suggests a link between cigar smoking and cancer of the pancreas. In addition, cigar smokers experience higher rates of coronary heart disease and chronic obstructive lung disease.
One of the major differences between cigar and cigarette smoking is the degree of inhalation. Almost all cigarette smokers report inhaling the smoke while the majority of cigar smokers do not. Regardless if the smoker inhales, the cigar still directly exposes the lips, mouth, tongue, throat and larynx to smoke and its carcinogens or cancer-causing substances. Even if unlit, holding a cigar between the lips exposes the oral cavity to carcinogens. When the saliva containing cigar products is swallowed, the esophagus is exposed to carcinogens.
Cigarettes are generally uniform in size and contain about 1 gram of tobacco. Cigars, on the other hand, may vary in size and shape and can measure more than 7 inches in length. Large cigars typically contain between 5 and 17 grams of tobacco. It's not unusual for some cigars to contain the tobacco equivalent of an entire pack of cigarettes.
Nicotine is the substance in tobacco that is capable of causing addiction or dependence. Cigarettes have an average total nicotine content of about 8.4 milligrams, while many popular brands of cigars contain between 100 and 200 milligrams and may contain as much as 444 milligrams of nicotine. Because of the tendency of cigar smokers not to inhale, the nicotine is absorbed primarily through the lining of the mouth rather than in the lungs. Nicotine absorbed through the lining of the mouth is capable of creating an addiction.
The environmental tobacco smoke or secondhand smoke released from cigars and cigarettes contains similar toxins and irritants. Because of the way they are produced and that they have more tobacco, cigars produce greater amounts of secondhand smoke. The smoke that is produced also has higher concentrations of toxins and irritants than cigarettes.
Last modification date:
Mon Aug 7 13:09:57 2006