Being Well

Chewing Tobacco and Cancer: Risks and Resources

Smokeless tobacco contains as many as 30 cancer-causing chemicals.

When you think of cancer risk and tobacco, do you think of cigarette smoking? While cigarettes contribute significantly to increased cancer risk for smokers, chewing tobacco can also have a devastating effect on users.

Chewing tobacco and cancer are linked, with the American Cancer Society reporting that smokeless tobacco contains at least 30 chemicals that are known to cause cancer in users. If you are using smokeless tobacco of any type, you are increasing your risk of serious health complications.

Here’s what you need to know, and how to empower yourself to quit once and for all.

Chewing Tobacco and Cancer Risks

While there are multiple forms of smokeless tobacco, ranging from snuff to chewing tobacco, there are no safe types that have decreased risk of cancer. Smokeless tobacco can lead to a variety of cancers, including cancers of the mouth, tongue, cheek, gum, esophagus and pancreas. The Oral Cancer Foundation reports that tobacco is the leading cause of oral cancers.

There are dangers for smokeless tobacco users outside of cancer as well. Mayo Clinic notes smokeless tobacco users are also at an increased risk for heart disease, dental disease and even pregnancy complications.

Staying Healthy

If you are using smokeless tobacco, or if you have a recent history of using smokeless tobacco, you can make proactive choices to stay as healthy as possible. First, consider quitting. Next, schedule regular exams with your physician and your dentist that include oral cancer screenings. Finally, if you notice any lesions or sores in your mouth, if swallowing becomes difficult, or if you have a chronic sore throat, make an appointment with your physician to have your symptoms reviewed.

Solutions for Quitting

Unfortunately, smokeless tobacco has been marketed as a safe alternative to cigarettes. The first step to empowering yourself to quit using smokeless tobacco is to understand the dangerous risks to your personal health. While there have been far fewer research studies about quitting smokeless tobacco than there has been for cigarette smoking, you can use similar techniques including nicotine replacement therapy to combat the addiction component of your tobacco use.

In addition to using nicotine replacement therapy responsibly, you can also use other alternatives that give your brain the sensation it seeks:

  • Try chewing gum when you would typically use smokeless tobacco.
  • Choosing a specific date to quit and writing down your reasons for quitting can be extremely effective and lead to success.
  • Tell people about your goal to quit and your reasons for quitting as well, to hold yourself accountable for your healthy decision.

If you are worried about quitting, talk with your physician about your concerns and goals. Your doctor can work with you to develop a plan to increase your odds of success.

Smokeless tobacco is just as addictive, and just as dangerous, as cigarette smoking. Educate yourself, set a quit date and make healthy decisions to help you achieve success. We are cheering you on!



If you use smokeless tobacco and are concerned about your cancer risk, talk to your doctor. They can help with cancer screenings and developing a plan for quitting.

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Haley Burress
Haley Burress