Smoking and cancer: What happens in your body?
Chemicals in cigarette smoke affect the entire body. This is why smoking causes so many diseases, including a dozen types of cancer, heart disease and various lung diseases.
The diagram on the right shows just some of the types of cancer that are caused by smoking.
As soon as you take a puff on a cigarette or breathe in someone else’s smoke, poisonous gases like formaldehyde will start to irritate your eyes, nose and throat.
Your lungs and airways
When you inhale the smoke, it damages the tissues of your airways and lungs. Chemicals like nitrogen oxide can constrict your airways, forcing your lungs to do more work and making breathing more difficult.
Hydrogen cyanide, carbon monoxide and ammonia weaken the natural cleaning mechanisms that clear your lungs and airways of toxins. This means that other dangerous chemicals, bacteria and viruses that you inhale stay inside your lungs.
Radioactive polonium-210 becomes deposited at the points where your airways split to connect to your lungs. This can subject local cells to much more radiation than they would otherwise experience.
From the lungs, cancer-causing chemicals and other poisons in tobacco smoke are absorbed into your bloodstream. These poisons are then carried to other parts of your body.
Your heart and blood vessels
Question about cancer? Contact our information nurse team