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J Intern Med. 2002 Jun;251(6):455-66.

Tobacco use, cancer causation and public health impact.

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International Centre for Health and Society, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London, London, UK.


This review describes global patterns of tobacco use and the mechanisms by which tobacco use is involved in carcinogenesis. A second part will discuss the association between tobacco use and risk of specific cancer types. Tobacco use has traditionally been a practice of high-income countries, but it has recently been taken up in low-income countries and it is particularly common in men. A wide variety of tobacco products exist, of which cigarettes are most frequently consumed. Tobacco products contain more than 50 established or identified carcinogens and these may increase risk of cancer by causing mutations that disrupt cell cycle regulation, or through their effect on the immune or endocrine systems. Certain factors such as genes, diet and environmental exposures may alter susceptibility to cancer in tobacco users. Today at least 15% of all cancers are estimated to be attributable to smoking, but this figure is expected to increase because of the uptake of tobacco use in low-income countries.

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