Cancers caused by smoking reach all-time high at 160 per day

Jul 9, 2024 | Leisure & Lifestyle

New figures showing smoking-related cancers have reached an all-time high in the UK, which have been described as “alarming” by Fresh.

The analysis from Cancer Research UK shows* that smoking causes an estimated 160 cases of cancer every day in the UK. This number has risen by 17% since 2003, meaning over 20 more people a day are being diagnosed with cancer as a result of smoking compared to in 2003.

Although smoking rates in the UK are going down, a growing population means there are still around 6.4 million smokers in the UK** and around 57,600 diagnoses of cancers caused by smoking each year.

Fresh is supporting calls nationally for the UK Government to re-introduce the Tobacco and Vapes Bill in the first King’s Speech on July 17 to raise the age of sale for lethal tobacco by a year every year.

This is the first time Cancer Research UK has included breast cancer as a cancer type caused by smoking in this kind of analysis. The scientific research for this link has been growing for years and the charity is now confident in the evidence showing that smoking causes around 2,200 cases of breast cancer every year in the UK. This means that tobacco causes at least 16 different types of cancer.

The biggest increases are seen in liver, throat and kidney, where UK cancer cases caused by smoking have doubled over the last 20 years. However, lung cancer still has the strongest link to smoking, causing 33,000 cases each year with rates rising among women.

Mum of three Sue Mountain, 59, from South Shields, began smoking aged 11. She underwent laser treatment at age 48 after a biopsy revealed she had laryngeal cancer in 2012. The cancer then returned in 2015 and then again in 2017.

Sue said: “I don’t want people in the future to go through the worry, the pain, the guilt and the loss of income I went through with smoking and cancer.

“It is appalling and immoral to think 160 families every day are devastated because of tobacco companies selling a drug for profit – it is time for change. Our NHS is struggling and the amount of people getting cancer because of tobacco is adding to this.”

Ailsa Rutter OBE, Director of Fresh and Balance, said: “Smoking is devastating to our health and our wealth, and it has no place in the future of our children. It is alarming but not surprising to see cancers rising from smoking – it can take decades for mutations and cancers to develop and the harm to come through onto hospital wards.

“Tobacco is a toxic product which kills 2 in 3 long-term smokers – no wonder more than seven out of 10 people in our region support raising the age of sale. This is a chance for the government to look after the health and the lives of the nation by making a smokefree generation a priority in the King’s Speech.”

Amanda Healy, Durham County Council’s Director of Public Health and Chair of the Association of Directors of Public Health North East Network, said: “Local authorities, NHS trusts and organisations across the North East have called for action to create a smokefree generation. Smoking now costs our region £2.3bn a year – a cost to families, on our economy, on social care and on our healthcare.

“The North East has seen the biggest fall in adult smoking in England in the last two decades, but for generations saw the worst outcomes from diseases like lung cancer and COPD and the impact in our communities with people left disabled or dying too early from smoking.

“There are very few families who haven’t seen a loved one suffer because of smoking…that is why people don’t want that for their children or grandchildren.”

Dr Ruth Sharrock, a respiratory consultant and Clinical Lead for Tobacco for the North East and North Cumbria NHS ICB, said: “Unfortunately every day in my job I see the devastating diseases caused by smoking such as lung cancer. It is awful seeing a patient’s world fall to pieces and seeing the regret at a diagnosis.

“No one wants their children to suffer from cancer or wake up gasping for breath. We need to stem the problem where it starts which is people becoming dependent on tobacco in the first place and create a smokefree generation without the addiction, cost and diseases caused by tobacco.”

Tobacco is a uniquely harmful product. When used as advised by the manufacturer, it will kill up to two-thirds of users. Cigarette smoke contains over 5,000 chemicals, at least 70 of which cause cancer. These chemicals damage the DNA in our cells and make it harder for our cells to repair DNA damage, which can lead to cancer.

One person is admitted to hospital every minute in England because of smoking, and it’s estimated by Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) that the treatment of smoking-related illness costs the NHS approximately £1.9 billion every year in England alone.***

There is lots of help to quit smoking, from quitting aids to help ease cravings, to free online tools like the Smoke Free App and friendly local support, visit FreshQuit.co.uk.