During my sophomore year of college, I watched the ease of cigarette addiction.
My hallmate, Jason, started smoking. It was only occasional at first. He would bum a cigarette at a party now and then. Then it was “only when he drank” (which, in college, was easily three days a week). His smoking slowly increased until he was smoking a pack a day. He tried to quit during finals week, but the stress of exams on top of his addiction was too much, and he reverted back to his habit.
Smoking is highly addictive, but worse than dealing with the withdrawal of quitting is what might happen if you continue to smoke. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death for both men and women. And while non-smokers do sometimes get lung cancer, more than 80% of lung cancer cases are attributed to smoking. Annually, more than 224,000 people will be diagnosed with lung cancer and nearly 160,000 will die of the disease.
November is Lung Cancer Awareness month, and we are stressing the importance of knowing the ways you can reduce your lung cancer risk. Along with smokers, others at risk include those who:
- have a history of heavy smoking (even if they quit)
- have been exposed to secondhand smoke
- have been exposed to indoor and outdoor air pollution
- have had jobs that exposed them to radiation
- have been exposed to toxic substances (like arsenic, radon or asbestos)
- have a personal or family history of lung cancer
If you’re a heavy smoker or former smoker, you should also talk to your health care professional about the pros and cons of screening. Screening long-time smokers with low-dose spiral CT scans can reduce the number of deaths from lung cancer by 20%.
If you do smoke, the best thing you can do for your health is to quit. It is never too late. If you’re having trouble getting started, here are a few tips for quitting from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
If you’re not a smoker, keep this information top-of-mind so that you don’t start. What you consider to be a “once in a while” cigarette can easily become a habit. Avoid exposure to secondhand smoke, and encourage your friends and family to join you in a smoke-free lifestyle. Let’s work together to decrease the number of lung cancer diagnoses each year and save lives.