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Tobacco Use and Cancer

Lung cancer is one of the more common cancers affecting our South Texas community. The main risk factor for lung cancer is using tobacco.

Stopping tobacco use now, even if it’s been a habit for years or you’ve tried in the past, lowers your risk. Doctors at UT Health San Antonio and Mays Cancer Center are here for you with support, cancer screening tests and leading care.

How using tobacco causes cancer

Tobacco has chemicals (carcinogens) that lead to cancer. When you use tobacco, carcinogens end up in your bloodstream. They interfere with cell functioning, increasing the likelihood of abnormal changes that cause cancer.

What you need to know about tobacco use and cancer

  • Rates of tobacco use are higher in South Texas than in other parts of the state. You face a higher cancer risk even if you smoke occasionally.
  • All forms of tobacco, including smokeless tobacco products and electronic cigarettes, can lead to cancer.
  • Being near a smoker raises your cancer risk, even if you’ve never used tobacco. When you are near a smoker, you breathe in secondhand smoke, which can lead to cancer.
  • Using tobacco not only raises your risk of lung cancer, it also raises your risk of other cancers, including:

Our lung cancer prevention and care services

Your primary care doctor can check your lung and heart health. We may recommend services that include:

Smoking cessation

Classes, individual counseling and, in some cases, medications can make it easier to stop using tobacco for good. Find out more about the tobacco cessation program available through UT Health San Antonio.

Additional resources include:

Cancer risk assessment

Talk to your primary care physician to learn more about how tobacco use may affect your lung cancer risk. Find out more about our primary care providers and locations.

Lung cancer screening

If you are at risk for lung cancer due to a history of using tobacco, you may be eligible for a screening test. You may also receive this test if you recently stopped smoking. Learn more about lung cancer screening.

Lung cancer evaluation and treatment

If you undergo lung cancer screening and we find a suspicious growth, your primary doctor can coordinate with our lung cancer experts. Doctors at Mays Cancer Center, home to UT Health San Antonio MD Anderson Cancer Center, accurately confirm or rule out a cancer diagnosis. Find out more about our lung cancer program

Our community-wide lung cancer prevention efforts

Researchers at Mays Cancer Center are taking steps to help more people in South Texas quit using tobacco. These efforts include:

  • Health policy changes: We played a key role in limiting tobacco sales to teens and young adults. In 2018, San Antonio Tobacco 21 became law. This ordinance raises the minimum age for tobacco sales from 18 to 21 years old.
  • Text message-based smoking cessation support: We developed Quitxt, a program that provides text message-based support to people who were trying to quit smoking. Messages in English and Spanish provided encouragement and helpful recommendations.