Morning Smokers at Higher Cancer Risk

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NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Smoking is generally hazardous to a person’s health, but, researchers have discovered, it’s extra dangerous to those in the habit of lighting up first thing in the morning.

According to a new report published in the American Cancer Society’s online journal Cancer, smokers who tend to take their first cigarette soon after they wake up may have a higher risk of developing lung and head and neck cancers than smokers who refrain from lighting up right away.

Researchers reached this conclusion by analyzing 4,775 lung cancer cases and 2,835 control cases, all regular cigarette smokers. They also analyzed 1,055 head and neck cancer cases and 795 controls, all with a history of smoking.

In the first analysis, they discovered that individuals who smoked 31 to 60 minutes after waking up were 1.31 times as likely to develop lung cancer as those who waited more than 60 minutes to take their first daily drag. Those who smoked within 30 minutes were 1.79 times as likely to develop lung  cancer when compared to the group able to refrain an hour or more.

The head and neck cancer analysis revealed that individuals who smoked 31 to 60 minutes after waking were 1.42 times as likely to develop head and neck cancer when compared with individuals who smoked more than 60 minutes after getting up in the morning. Those who smoked within 30 minutes were 1.59 times as likely to develop head and neck cancer.

Joshua Muscat, lead author of the study from the Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine, said the increased likelihood of cancer in early-morning smokers is most likely related to their overall dependence on nicotine.

“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,” Muscat explained in a press release. He added that heightened levels of nicotine dependence may be caused by “a combination of genetic and personal factors that cause a higher dependence to nicotine.”

The study was conducted to shed light on why some smokers get cancer while others do not, in an an attempt to find out what demographics would benefit most from targeted smoking cessation programs.

As a result of the findings, researchers are recommending that those who smoke as soon as they get up should participate in this type of programming since it can help reduce tobacco’s negative health effects as well as the costs associated with its use.

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