Cancer & Tobacco Make an Appointment Ask a Question Search Conditions Cancer is the second leading cause of death. More deaths are caused each year by tobacco use than by ALL DEATHS from human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), illegal drug use, alcohol use, motor vehicle injuries, suicides and murders COMBINED. Cancer was among the first diseases linked to smoking. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death, and it is primarily caused by cigarette smoking. Smoking causes about 90 percent of lung cancer deaths in women and almost 80 percent of lung cancer deaths in men. The risk of smoking-caused cancers increases with the number of cigarettes smoked and the number of years of smoking, and it decreases after quitting completely. Cancer-causing chemicals (called carcinogens) in tobacco smoke damage important genes that control the growth of cells, causing them to grow abnormally or to reproduce too rapidly. Cigarette smoking is a major cause of esophageal cancer in the United States. The combination of smoking and alcohol consumption causes most laryngeal cancer cases. Cigarette, pipe and cigar smoking increases the risk of developing mouth cancers. Reference The health consequences of smoking – 50 years of progress: a report of the Surgeon General. – Atlanta, GA. : U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2014. This information has been approved by Amy Lukowski, PsyD (August 2015).