Ask the Doc :: Second-hand Smoke
Dear Doctor Jason,
Let's talk smoking, Doc! I've read that the risks for gay guys for cancer is higher. Is this some sort of risk associated with our lifestyle? Or is it about the clubs? How bad is my exposure if I go to a gay bar where smoking is not yet banned and dance for a few hours?
Doctor Jason's Response:
Smoking has been associated with a variety of cancers, including lung, liver, esophagus, pancreas, and bladder. The mechanism is multifactorial: the toxins in the cigarettes, the impairment of normal cell protection, direct damage to the DNA.
Smoking directly is worse than second-hand smoke; however, consistent second-hand smoke does have an increased risk of disease as well. It does not appear to be directly linked to the lifestyle or even a genetic component, but it is well-studied that the LGBT population has a significantly higher rate of tobacco use than the non-LGBT population. If more of a smaller population are doing it, then it will appear as though there is a higher risk, but the risk is generally the same as the non-LGBT population.
Other illnesses, including HIV, alcohol use, and diabetes, may alter the risk of developing cancers too. The occasional second-hand exposure, even dancing in a smoked-up club, does not appear to pose as substantially an increased risk as chronic second-hand exposure. If you do smoke directly, whether a few cigarettes a day or 2 packs a day, then there is an increased risk.
Specialists say that the risk decreases after stopping smoking, but it can remain higher-than-average for as long as 10 years. So, it is recommended to quit as soon as possible in order to decrease your risk of cancer.
Dr. Faulhaber is a graduate of Tulane University in Psychology and Cellular and Molecular Biology and received his medical degree from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. He performed his residency training in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics at Saint Vincent’s Hospital in Manhattan, where he then served as a Chief Resident in Internal Medicine. He completed his fellowship in Infectious Diseases at New York University, where he specialized in HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis, and fungal infections. Since fellowship, he has been working as an Internal Medicine/Infectious Diseases physician at Fenway Community Health in Boston. He is a Clinical Instructor in Medicine at Harvard Medical School, and he is affiliated with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. He has been the lead author or co-author of several journal articles and textbook chapters on infections with HIV, other viruses, bacteria, and fungi. He is also accredited by the American Academy of HIV Medicine.
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