Smoking is the world’s leading cause of preventable death. It is a direct trigger for lung cancer, one of the most fatal tumors, many other types of cancer, and of a host of other severe respiratory problems. Many smokers wish they could quit and try to do so. Many try multiple products to see if they can kick the nicotine habit for good.
Some of these are smokeless tobacco products (STPs) that notably include chew tobacco and snuff. A new study suggests that these should only be a used as a way to wean off tobacco dependence forever, rather than using the products in place of smoking, forever. That is because STPs increase the risk of cancer themselves, not as much as smoking, but they still raise the risk.
A team of French researchers looked at STP use around the globe, and whether it was linked to a cancer risk. In the journal “Lancet Oncology,” they wrote that STPs have more than 30 different carcinogens (substances linked to cancer development), including various metals.
They found that people who took STPs had an 80% higher risk of oral cancer (mouth) and a 60% higher risk of esophageal cancer than those who didn’t use them. It also increased the risk of pancreatic cancer and, although they did not find a link to lung cancer, previous studies in the U.S. had suggested STPs are linked to an 80% higher risk of lung cancer.
The researchers strongly recommend that STPs not be used as a replacement for smoking. They are, as you can see, not without problems. In some countries, such as Sudan and India, over half of all mouth cancer cases are traced to the use of STPs. The findings suggest a strong link between the products and cancer.
Switching from smoking to smokeless tobacco is not a bad idea, so long as it doesn’t become a long-term fix. The products are excellent when used as a bridge for smokers to arrive at the point where they don’t need to light up.