Question: how do we get cancer from smokes????

  1. Cigarettes contain a lot of chemicals, including nicotine, the part that is addictive and makes people want to smoke. There are thousands of chemicals in cigarette smoke and a few hundred are know to be damaging to our bodies. These chemicals can affect anyone who breathes them in, but are much more likely to cause cancer in the smoker as they purposely breathe them in, and do it often.

    These chemicals get into all different parts of our body and do damage to our cells. They are called carcinogens because they can directly cause cancer. The chemicals do this by damaging our DNA or stopping the cell from working properly.

    Cancer is the name for diseases where cells multiply uncontrollably without dying. Normally, our cells are under strict control by the rest of the body. They die when they get old or damaged, and they multiply (produce copies of themselves) when we need more cells. A cell which has been damaged by carcinogens doesn’t listen to these rules anymore. Instead of dying when the body tells it to, it will produce many, many copies of itself. The DNA in these copies is a bit weird, so the cancer cells look and behave differently to all the normal ones. The cancer cells might move away from where they were made and invade other parts of the body. So a smoker who breathes in all these carcinogens might get cancer in their lung. The damaged cell in the lung will produce lots of copies of itself, and some of these might escape and move through the body. These travelling cells might get into the bone, the brain, or somewhere else, and start a tumour (a solid lump of cancer cells) in these places too.

    This makes it very hard to treat cancer as you don’t know if you have found all the cancer cells, or if there are more in other parts of the body. It is also hard to treat because there are many different ways the cancer cell could be damaged, and the treatment depends partly on what this damage is.