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Cigarettes Linked To More Than Just Lung Cancer

A new study performed by the Johns Hopkins Medical team has found that tobacco smoke and sexually transmitted viruses like human papillomavirus type 16 could be linked not only to each other, but to the development of mouth and throat cancers. This research was published in JAMA, and showed an association between the number of cigarettes smoked each day and the prevalence of HPV16. The results showed that this type of infection was more common in student members who had been exposed to tobacco, and had little to do with sexual behavior at all.

Human Papillomavirus Type 16

This virus is known to be transmitted through oral sex most commonly, and is also a virus that is found in 80% of cancers that are found in the mouth and throat. The numbers of Americans who suffer from this type of cancer is rising, and has grown to reach 225% more cases in the past twenty years alone. This specific type of cancer is not nearly as common as others, and while oral sex is something that many people participate in, scientists were stumped to find that the number of people performing this sexual act and the number of people with throat cancer didn’t correlate. For this reason, tobacco was brought into the equation as a method of better tracking the cause of this virus and the cancers that it causes.

Reviewing Study Notes

During this particular study, 6,887 patients were examined through the National Health and Nutrition Examination in 2012. Of these participants almost 30% were smokers of tobacco, while only 1% were infected with the human papillomavirus type 16. Each of these subjects were screened for tobacco exposure both from smoking, smokeless and environmental factors that could have contributed to its inhalation or contact, as well as for the oral viral infection. Blood and urine samples, as well as an oral gargle and rinse were taken before a computer assessment commenced to gain information on tobacco use and sexual behaviors. Medical News Today says: “Measures of tobacco exposure and oral sexual behavior were both found to be significantly associated with prevalence of oral HPV16 infection. The virus was more prevalent in participants who were current tobacco users (2.0%), compared with former users or those who had never used tobacco (0.6%).”

For each level of the tobacco related chemical cotinine in the blood stream that equaled to three cigarettes per day, HPV16 chances increase by more than thirty percent. As the other most commonly related tobacco chemical NNAL was increased to the rate of four cigarettes per day, chances of the human papillomavirus rose by 68%. This information in itself should be enough for smokers who continue their habit to consider quitting. It’s been long recognized that cigarettes are highly unhealthy and come with a number of negative effects; this latest study just helps to prove this fact.

E-Cigarettes Contribute To Health Problems Too

Due to the rising number of illnesses and negative consequences related to cigarette smoking, many smokers have turned to electronic cigarettes as a way to get rid of tobacco but keep the nicotine intake high. Unfortunately, new studies show that this form of smoking may not be as healthy as people have been led to believe. In fact, the vapors released from e-cigarettes are highly irritable to lungs, and have properties that could lead to serious heart problems. Dr. Norman Edelman of the American Lung Association is also a professor of preventative medicine and internal medicine at the University of Stony Brook, which is located on Long Island. He has become a well-recognized informant on the trouble that this type of cigarette can bring, and warns smokers that it isn’t the answer to quitting tobacco. The Daily Beast reports: “Until more research can be done, organizations like the ALA are strongly urging the FDA to “move and move quickly” to regulate e-cigarettes the same way they do tobacco products, according to Edelman. In the meantime, he says he’ll continue to advise patients to steer clear of the e-cig.”

There have been no current studies recorded that show any correlation between e-cigarettes and HPV16, and as this is a tobacco free cigarette, there is every reason to believe that the results would be different. However, with that being said, there are still many reasons to steer clear of smoking altogether.

Compiling Data Against Cigarettes

Aside from cancer, HPV16, heart disease, lung disease, and a number of other problems that come along with smoking cigarettes. There have also been studies reporting that smoking can cause problems in the healing of wounds, especially following surgery. Healio.com says: “There is a significant increase in complication rates following forefoot surgery for patients who smoke cigarettes.”

There has also been a lot of discussion in the past decade regarding the effect that cigarette smoke, both first and secondhand, has on skin and the aging process. As more is learned about the negative responses that skin has to smoke and other pollutants, it’s becoming a higher priority in the lives of smokers to quit this bad habit and take better care of themselves. This is one area where it can be physically seen without the help of medical equipment, just what tobacco and nicotine is doing to your body. The yellowing of skin, large pores, and patchy uneven skin tone might not be a call for medical attention, but it is certainly a frightening sight that could be easily changed with the reprogramming of daily habits.

Claudette Zaremba, M.D.

Claudette Zaremba, M.D. is Board Certified in Family Medicine and practices Psychiatry in Alaska. Dr. Zaremba graduated Cum Laude in 1987 with a degree in Biology from the University of Houston and received her medical degree from the University of Texas Medical Branch in 1992, she went on to complete her Family Practice Residency at Dartmouth College in 2002 and completed her Psychiatry Residency at the University of California San Francisco in 1993. Dr. Zaremba is a member of the American Board of Family Medicine as well as the American Medical Association. Dr. Zaremba takes a holistic approach (“Whole Body”) to practicing medicine and believes good health starts with preventative medicine, Dr. Zaremba enjoys doing teleconsults and has been conducting teleconsults for the past several years. View the bio in detail.

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