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Secondhand Smoke (cont.)


Does Secondhand Smoke Cause Cancer?

  • People who do not smoke but reside with a smoker have a greater chance of developing lung cancer than typical nonsmokers.
  • Each year in the United States, over 7,000 people die as a result of lung cancer that develops as a result of secondhand smoke, or passive smoking.

Effects Secondhand Smoke and Heart Disease

  • Cigarette smoking is a known risk factor for the development of the kind of heart disease that can cause heart attack.
  • Just as nonsmokers living with a smoker have an increased risk of lung cancer, nonsmokers who live with a smoker are more likely to get cardiovascular disease and suffer heart attack.
  • It has been estimated that every year, almost 34,000 deaths in the U.S. are due to heart disease in non-smokers caused by their exposure to second-hand smoke.

Effects Secondhand Smoke and Other Lung Diseases

  • Lung function is compromised in those who are continuously exposed to secondhand smoke.
  • Symptoms such as coughing and chest congestion are more common in those exposed to passive smoke than in nonsmokers who reside in smoke free environments.
  • The respiratory effects of secondhand smoke are particularly dangerous to infants and young children.
  • Babies exposed to secondhand smoke can develop serious respiratory infections. Every year, passive smoking is believed to cause 150,000 to 300,000 lung infections (such as pneumonia and bronchitis) in children younger than 18 months of age in the U.S.

Effects Secondhand Smoke on Children

  • Lung disease and respiratory infections are not the only risks suffered by children and infants who are exposed to passive smoke.
  • Passive smoking also worsens asthma in children, increases their risk for the development of middle ear infections, and increases the risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Secondhand Smoke and Breast Cancer

  • Even though breast cancer rates are not known to be increased in active smokers, some research points to a possible effect of passive smoke on breast cancer development.
  • Tobacco smoke does contain chemicals that have been shown to cause breast cancer in animal models.
  • It is also known that chemicals from tobacco smoke are able to accumulate in breast tissue and breast milk.
  • Whether secondhand smoke actually increases the risk of breast cancer has not been conclusively determined, but the U.S. Surgeon General's report concluded that there is "suggestive but not sufficient" evidence of a link in 2006.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/20/2017

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Patient Comments & Reviews

The eMedicineHealth doctors ask about Secondhand Smoke:

Secondhand Smoke - Patient Experience

Have you been diagnosed with a disease related to secondhand smoke? Please describe your experience.

Secondhand Smoke - Reducing Smoke Exposure

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