Cigars Not Safe ... Heart and Lung Disease and Cancer

Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, was rarely photographed without a cigar in his hand. Freud developed leukoplakia, a white patch, in his mouth and then cancer of the soft palate.

An article in the New England Journal of Medicine provides new evidence that cigar smoking may not have been good for Dr. Freud. It confirms that cigar smoking increases the risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, and lung, coronary heart disease, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). (COPD is a blanket term that covers the progressive lung diseases emphysema and chronic bronchitis.)

The report is of a study of nearly 18,000 men enrolled in the Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program of Northern California. This number included more than 1,500 cigar smokers, none of whom had smoked cigarettes and none of whom currently smoked a pipe.

The investigators, led by Carlos Iribarren, found that the cigar smokers had a 27% higher risk of heart disease and a 45% higher risk of COPD as compared to the men who were not cigar smokers.

Cigar smokers were found to have about twice the risk of cancers of the mouth, throat, and lung and about one-and-a-half times the risk of developing any smoking-related cancer as did the nonsmokers. Additionally, cigar smokers who drank 3 or more alcoholic drinks a day had a risk of mouth and throat cancer almost 8 times that of nonsmokers who drank 2 or fewer drinks per day.