Early morning smokers at higher cancer risk

By Colin Ricketts - 08 Aug 2011 19:22:0 GMT
Early morning smokers at higher cancer risk

Lighting up a cigarette as soon as they wake up could put smokers at greater risk from cancers associated with the habit according to two new studies.

The research was published online in Cancer, the journal of the American Cancer Society, and aims to help identify those at most risk from cancers who can be targeted with stop smoking help.

Smoking tobacco has long been associated with cancer, but not all smokers succumb to the disease and Joshua Muscat, PhD, of the Penn State College of Medicine in Hershey, let a team to see how the strength of the smoker's nicotine addiction impacted on their long-term health.

Reaching for the lighter as soon as the alarm goes off is a good indication of dependence and Muscat's team found that the time lapse from waking to smoking was a better indicator of lung, head and neck cancer risk than the amount people smoked and for how long they smoked.

The team looked at 4,775 lung cancer cases and 2,835 control subjects without the disease but who smoked. Those who lit up a cigarette between 31 and 60 minutes after waking were 1.31 times more likely to develop lung cancer as those who waited for an hour; those who started to smoke within the first half-hour of their waking day saw a risk 1.79 times as high.

A similar study looked at 1,055 head and neck cancer cases against 795 controls and found similar results. The likelihood of developing the disease for those who smoked in the second half hour of the day was 1.42 times as high as those who could wait an hour. Those who smoked in the first half hour of the day were 1.59 times as likely to develop head and neck cancer.

"These smokers have higher levels of nicotine and possibly other tobacco toxins in their body, and they may be more addicted than smokers who refrain from smoking for a half hour or more," said Dr. Muscat. "It may be a combination of genetic and personal factors that cause a higher dependence to nicotine."

Muscat and his team argue that these highly addicted smokers should be the target for stop smoking programmes.

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