Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Smoking can actually reduce the risk of tumours

Almost everyone knows that smoking is harmful and greatly increases the risk of developing tumours, most notable being lung cancer. Even smokers know that their habit is almost universally bad. However, as it turns out, there are positive side effects to smoking, as scientists from Ohio State University discovered that it reduces the risk of developing a particular tumour. It is nevertheless no reason to start smoking, as it is quite rare and relatively benign.

Acoustic neuroma
Studies show that smokers have less chance to develop what is known as an acoustic neuroma. This is a tumour-like growth that resides close to the ear, where it can block the connection between the hearing organ and the brain. The tumour itself does not really cause much problems because it grows quite slowly, but it is necessary to remove it, either by surgery or radiation therapy. Because it grows slowly and stays relatively confined to its spot, it is not a form of cancer, though it is not very healthy either.

Scientists think that the decrease in chance of developing an acoustic neuroma for smokers has something to do with a lack of oxygen. Tumours are a form of excessive cell growth, which requires a lot of resources, such as nutrients and oxygen. Statistical analysis showed that male smokers have 59 percent less chance of developing an acoustic neuroma, and this decrease is 30 percent for women. While smoking is known to limit the amount of oxygen because of reduced blood flow in the brain, it is not clear why it does not prevent other tumour forms, but instead causes them.

Cigarettes hold many damaging substances, the most well-known being nicotine. Scientists assessed whether nicotine is causing the aforementioned decrease in risk of developing an acoustic neuroma, but this hypothesis proved to be false. It is therefore not known why smoking decreases the chance of the tumour. That in turn means there are undiscovered effects of smoking on the body, which surprisingly can be beneficial. Because smoking was already associated with a decrease in the risk of developing parkinson's disease, studying smoking for its beneficial effect does not even seem like a bad idea, though its overwhelming number of bad effects will never make it a reason to pick up the habit.

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