MadSci Network: Medicine

Re: what are cirgarettes made of to give cancer

Date: Wed Dec 20 19:13:04 2000
Posted By: John Moulder, Faculty, Radiation Biology, Medical College of Wisconsin
Area of science: Medicine
ID: 976774907.Me

Smoking and cancer You ask: "what are cigarettes made of to give cancer?"

The issue is not so much "what cigarettes are made of", but "what do cigarettes turn into when you burn them". You can extract cancer-causing chemicals from tobacco, but the real problem comes from what tobacco turns into when it is burned.

Although I cannot find any specific information, I suspect that if you burned any kind of plant material and inhaled the smoke over a long period of time you would risk getting lung cancer. On the other hand, firefighters, who are exposed to smoke on a regular basis, do not have a dramatically increased risk of lung cancer.

When cigarette smoke is analyzed, thousands of chemicals can be identified, many of which are known mutagens and/or carcinogens. The list includes:

The best source of information on smoking and cancer is probably the 1982 report on "Smoking and Health" from the US Surgeon General's Office.

John Moulder
Cancer Biologist
Medical College of Wisconsin

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