But now new research has found that a specific smoking habit could literally be almost doubling your risk of getting lung cancer. I’m talking about the routine of lighting up your first cigarette within 30 minutes of waking up.
Unfortunately, however, the reality is that breaking this practice is much easier said than done…because the active ingredient in cigarettes, nicotine, is addictive and essentially sets you up for failure before you even try to make a change.
Nicotine is a stimulant, and within less than 10 seconds after inhaling it the drug is tickling receptor cells that send the signals that cause your heartbeat and breathing rate to race, while, at the same time, it is telling your blood vessels to contract. Before you’ve even finished your cigarette, your system has been fully stimulated and you’re officially on a nicotine “high.”
But the problem is that this high is a very short-lived one. Within a half hour of your finishing your cigarette, your nicotine levels are plummeting…and you’ll soon be craving yet another cigarette to top up your sagging levels.
So it’s easy then to see why so many smokers reach for a cigarette as soon as they roll out of bed in the morning. They are literally in withdrawal.
(See The Monkey on Your Back Is Smoking a Cigarette to learn why—at least as far as your brain is concerned—taking a hit of nicotine is essentially the same thing as taking a hit of cocaine.)
Your lung cancer risk skyrockets 79%!
Now, back to that new research I mentioned earlier.
Researchers at the Penn State College of Medicine looked at 7,611 smokers…4,776 with lung cancer and 2,835 without cancer…and found that those that lit up within a half hour of waking were 79% more likely to have developed cancer than those who waited at least an hour.
The relationship remained even after the scientists adjusted for other smoking habits, such as the number of cigarettes smoked in a day.
The researchers are unsure why the relationship exists, but they theorize that smokers who light up as soon s they get up are likely inhaling more smoke into their lungs than they normally would.
59% more likely to develop a head or neck tumor
Interestingly, another smoking study published in the same issue of the journal Cancer came up with similar findings when they looked at a group of 1,850 smokers. It turns out that the smokers who typically lit up within a half hour of waking were 59% more likely to have developed a head or neck tumor than were those who waited at least a half hour.
While research is still needed to determine exactly why early morning smokers are significantly more likely to get cancer than are smokers who start later in the day, there appears to be no question that they are.
The best advice is, of course, to quit smoking. However, if you’re not quite ready to quit…or you aren’t planning on ever doing so…you can at least reduce your odds of cancer by holding off on smoking that first cigarette of the day for an hour after waking up.
I suppose that this gives a whole new meaning to the phrase “the early bird gets the worm.”
“Nicotine dependence phenotype and lung cancer risk,” Cancer, Article first published online: 8 AUG 2011DOI: 10.1002/cncr.26236
“Early Morning Smokers Have Increased Risk of Lung and Head and Neck Cancers” Press Release Wiley Publishing, August 08, 2011
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