From OHC, Specialists in the Treatment of Adult Cancers and Blood Disorders

November 17, 2021

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among both men and women. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cigarette smoking is linked to about 80-90 percent of lung cancer deaths and people who smoke cigarettes are 15-30 times more likely to get lung cancer or die from it than nonsmokers. Unfortunately, the recent Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Cigarette Report revealed that annual cigarette sales increased for the first time in 20 years.

“The good news is, it’s never too late to quit smoking,” said OHC medical oncologist and hematologist, Cynthia C. Chua, MD. “A recent study published by JAMA Oncology last month found that smokers who quit by age 45 canceled out 87% of their excess lung cancer risk.”

According to the American Cancer Society, people who smoke expose themselves to over 7,000 chemicals, including carbon monoxide, tar, formaldehyde, and cyanide. Chemicals in cigarettes damage our genes. When certain genes are damaged, cells grow and divide quickly and this can lead to cancer. In addition to our lungs, smoking also harms every organ in the body and can cause several cancer types.

“Secondhand smoke also increases your risk for cancer, and although smokeless tobacco products might expose people to lower levels of harmful chemicals than cigarette smoke, it doesn’t mean they’re a safe alternative,” said Dr. Chua. “While we need to do more research, some chemicals found in e-cigarette vapor have been connected to head and neck cancers,” added Dr. Chua.

Blake Thomson, DPhil, MPhil, of the American Cancer Society lead the study published in JAMA Oncology and set out to examine the correlation between age at smoking initiation and cessation and cancer mortality. Researchers analyzed over 410,000 Americans from 1997-2014. They discovered that the younger people started smoking, the greater their risk of eventually dying from cancer. Still, those who quit their habit by their 50s or early 60s had a meaningful reduced risk of dying from cancer.

Furthermore, with new treatment advances like immunotherapies and targeted therapies, more Americans than ever are surviving lung cancer. In fact, OHC has several lung cancer clinical trials evaluating promising therapies including a phase 3 study of sitravatinib which works by blocking proteins that appear to cause tumors to grow.

We do not exactly know why cigarette sales increased in 2020, but it might have been caused by the stress of the pandemic. “An incentive to quit is considering the amount of money you spend on cigarettes in one year,” said Dr. Chua. “A pack-a-day habit can set you back about $2,500. Because it’s never too late to quit smoking, my OHC colleagues and I offer the following tips for quitting:

  • Avoid triggers, like stress, and remove yourself from situations where you would normally smoke
  • Practice relaxation techniques and exercise
  • Talk with your doctor about recommended prescription medications or over-the-counter nicotine replacement products
  • Get support- call 800-QUIT-NOW (800-784-8669) to be connected directly to trained counselors on your state’s free government quitline or attend a Nicotine Anonymous meeting in person or remotely (https://www.nicotine-anonymous.org/)
  • Chew gum or a healthy snack instead of reaching for a cigarette
  • Reward yourself for meeting a goal.”

This Lung Cancer Awareness Month, and beyond, it is important to be aware of lung cancer risk factors, symptoms, and updated screening guidelines, which are available at ohcare.com. OHC’s experts recommend annual screening with low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) in adults aged 50 to 80 years old who have a 20-pack-per-year smoking history and currently smoke or have quit within the past 15 years.

For more information on lung cancer and advanced therapies offered by OHC’s leading cancer experts, or to request a second opinion, call 1-888-649-4800 or visit ohcare.com.

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