Our bodies are designed to deal with some damage, but they often can’t cope with the number of harmful chemicals in tobacco smoke. The amount you smoke and your smoking length affects your cancer risk. The more cigarettes you smoke a day, the higher your risk of cancer, so reducing the number of daily cigarettes you smoke can be an excellent first step.
But the years you spend smoking affects your cancer risk most strongly. So it’s essential to make a plan to stop smoking completely. Remember, the sooner you stop, the lower your risk of cancer. Everyone who smokes can benefit from stopping, and it’s never too late to stop- even if you’ve smoked for years.
The relation between smoking, DNA damage and cancer
DNA is found in all our cells and controls how they behave. Even one cigarette can damage DNA. Cigarette smoke releases over 5000 chemicals, many of which are harmful – we know at least 70 can cause cancer. The toxic chemicals enter our lungs and spread around the entire body—chemicals from cigarettes damage DNA. Cigarette chemicals make it harder for cells to repair any DNA damage. They also damage the parts of DNA that protect us from cancer. The build-up of DNA damage in the same cell over time leads to cancer.
Smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer
Lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer death. People who smoke sometimes have a cough. But coughing can also be a sign of lung cancer and other conditions. So talk to your doctor if you have any doubt or a cough or other symptom that’s new, changing, or won’t go away. And remember, it’s never too late to stop smoking and reduce your lung cancer risk. The best way to reduce your risk is to stop smoking completely.
What other types of cancer does smoking cause?
The link between smoking and cancer is obvious. It causes at least 15 different types of cancer, including two of the most common, lung and bowel cancer. Other cancers caused by smoking include the mouth, pharynx (upper throat), nose and sinuses, larynx (voice box), esophagus (food pipe), liver, pancreas, stomach, kidney, ovary, bladder, cervix, and some types of leukemia. Smoking also causes other diseases, such as heart disease and lung diseases.
Is it okay to smoke occasionally?
There is no safe level of smoking. Smoking 1-10 cigarettes daily increases the risk of getting smoking-related cancers and other diseases. Even smoking less than one cigarette per day is harmful. One study found that it significantly increases the risk of dying early compared to people who have never smoked. The best thing you can do for your health is to stop smoking completely.
Why is it so hard to quit smoking?
About 2 out of 3 smokers want to quit, and about half try to quit each year, but few succeed without help. In 2012, researchers reviewed 28 studies of people trying to quit using the substance they were addicted to. They found that about 18% were able to quit drinking, and more than 40% were able to quit opiates or cocaine, but only 8% were able to quit smoking.
It is the addiction which hinders a person from quitting smoking. People who have used tobacco regularly will have withdrawal symptoms if they suddenly stop. There’s no danger in nicotine withdrawal, but the symptoms can be uncomfortable. They usually start within a few hours and peak about 2 to 3 days later when most of the nicotine and its by-products are out of the body. Withdrawal symptoms can last a few days to up to several weeks. They get better every day that a person stays tobacco-free.
Medical treatments for smoking cessation
The scientifically proven medications for smoking cessation are nicotine gum, inhaler, lozenge, patch, nasal spray and non-nicotine medicines like bupropion, clonidine, and nortriptyline. All of these are equally effective. Nicotine replacement therapies (NRTs) work because they relieve withdrawal symptoms of anxiety, depression, difficulty concentrating, insomnia, irritability, restlessness, and nicotine craving.
Most experts suggest that patients themselves should decide which form of treatment they want to use.
Psychological studies reveal that one’s mindset about a human attribute, whether the attribute is fixed or malleable, may impact the success of behavioral change needed for smoking cessation. Behavioral therapy focuses on building skills to resist relapse, such as developing incompatible behaviors (e.g., exercise, yoga, meditation), coping thoughts, refusal skills, etc. This therapy increases quit rates.
Appropriate Social support to the smokers will encourage cessation, find “buddies” who are also either trying to quit or have done so, etc.
Motivate the smoker using the 5 Rs: focus on personally relevant information on risks of smoking, rewards of stopping, roadblocks to quitting, and repeating this advice.
Combining psychosocial therapies and pharmacological treatments increases the success rates of quitting smoking.
Smokers should be encouraged to access treatment and participate in intensive therapies. The most crucial aspect of this smoking cessation is maintaining the motivation to make multiple attempts.
In short, medical treatment and psychological therapies are all dose-related; the more intense the treatment, the greater the success rate.