Tony Gwynn's battle with salivary gland cancer - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Tony Gwynn's battle with salivary gland cancer

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SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) – Fans continue to support Tony Gwynn’s family who lost a San Diego legend to salivary gland cancer.

When Tony Gwynn learned of his deadly illness he believed it was caused by his years of chewing tobacco.

However, his doctors did not believe his chewing tobacco habit caused his salivary gland cancer but says the dangers of tobacco use can cause other health problems and other oral cancers.

Anti-tobacco advocates say tobacco has several carcinogens and causes other oral cancers.

“It certainly increased his risk of getting this cancer,” said Georgia Robins Sadler, PhD at Moores Cancer Center at UC San Diego.

One surgeon explains why chewing wouldn’t cause Gwynn’s salivary gland cancer.

“The gland is right around the ear but under the skin so its connected to one small duct,” said Head and Neck surgeon at Kaiser Permanente, Dr. Todd Broberg. "So it's not directly connected to the oral cavity, chewing tobacco didn't touch the gland."

Baseball legends such as Babe Ruth, Brett Butler, Bill Tuttle suffered from oral cancer.

Anti-tobacco advocates say people shouldn’t be focused on whether chewing tobacco caused Gwynn’s cancer rather how they can prevent the risks and let the hall of fame player be the motivator to quit tobacco use.

"None of us realize how fragile our life is until it is threatened. We all feel invincible and then one day something happens and we lose a hero like Tony Gwynn,” said Sadler.

In 2011, Major League Baseball banned smokeless tobacco in clubhouses, during television interviews, events and tobacco packaging cannot be stuffed in uniform pockets.

A new labor agreement with the Players Association and the MLB will be negotiated in 2016. Discussions on fully banning smokeless tobacco in the MLB have been talked about in congressional hearings.

The minor league doesn’t allow smokeless tobacco.

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