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Step 2: Don’t use tobacco

All types of tobacco can put you on a collision course with cancer. Not using tobacco, or deciding to stop using it, is one of the most important health decisions you can make. Avoiding tobacco in any form significantly reduces your risk of cancers of the lungs, esophagus, voice box (larynx), mouth, bladder, kidneys, pancreas and, in women, the cervix.

In the United States, cigarette smoking is the cause of about 90 percent of all cases of lung cancer — the leading cause of cancer death in both men and women. It’s also responsible for about a third of all cancer deaths. Every time you smoke a cigarette, you inhale dozens of substances (carcinogens) that can cause cells to become cancerous. Tar in smoke also forms a sticky brown layer on the lining of your lungs and air passages. This layer traps carcinogens you’ve inhaled.

Smoking cigars or using chewing tobacco isn’t safe either. Compared with nonsmokers, cigar smokers have higher rates of lung cancer and are 4 to 10 times more likely to die of cancers of the larynx, esophagus and mouth. Chewing tobacco also increases the risk of cancers of the mouth, cheeks and gums.

Even if you don’t smoke, reduce your exposure to secondhand smoke. Each year, about 3,000 nonsmokers die of lung cancer caused by secondhand smoke.