Early morning cigarette may be riskier for lung cancer

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Smoking early in the morning.
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Smoking early in the morning might increase the risk of head, neck and lung cancer, beyond what is normally seen from tobacco abuse, say researchers. Smoking within 30 minutes of waking up may signal higher levels of nicotine and tobacco toxins in the body, accounting for the finding.

In two studies, researcher Joshua Muscat, PhD, of the Penn State College of Medicine in Hershey, and his colleagues looked at cancer incidence related to time when a smoker first lights up. The higher chance of cancer was present from an early morning cigarette, regardless of duration and amount of tobacco use.

Lung cancer is one of the most common causes of cancer deaths in the United States. Scientists suspect tobacco carcinogens alter DNA from toxins that come from nicotine.

According to a 2000 Surgeon General report, tobacco smoke contains more than 4,000 chemical compounds, Forty three are known carcinogens; some of those cancer causing agents are added to cigarette tobacco to improve the taste of cigarettes, improve shelf life and increase burning time.

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For the current study, researchers looked at 4,775 lung cancer cases, comparing rates to 2,835 controls. All were regular smokers, but those who lit up 31 to 60 minutes after waking up were found to have a 1.31 higher chance of developing lung cancer.

People who smoked within 30 minutes of waking up were 1.79 times as likely to develop lung cancer.

Head and neck cancers were also high for those who smoked just after awakening. The risk for early smokers was 1.59 times higher, compared to 1.42 higher chance among individuals who smoked 31 to 60 minutes after waking.

Dr. Muscat says, "It may be a combination of genetic and personal factors that cause a higher dependence to nicotineā€, which also means higher levels of toxins that account for the higher cancer risk seen in the study. The authors say the finding may help explain why only some smokers get cancer.

The authors say identifying early morning smokers and intervening with targeted smoking cessation programs could decrease the health and financial burden of tobacco related head, neck and lung cancers. For help with smoking cessation, visit the American Cancer Society's, "Guide to Quitting Smoking."

Image credit: Morguefile

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