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The number of people with cancer is increasing at a current rate of 3 per cent year on year. Sussex GP Dr Tizzy Camilleri says one way to protect yourself is to give up smoking
One of the biggest identifiable causes of cancer is smoking. Not only is it associated with lung cancer but also other cancers such as cervical cancer have a close association with smoking. Cigarettes contain more than 4,000 chemicals including over 50 known carcinogens (causes of cancer). They also contain tar, which clogs up blood vessels and carbon monoxide, which together reduces the amount of oxygen being carried in the blood to your vital organs like your brain and heart. It is however the all-addictive drug nicotine which makes smokers crave the next cigarette.
Not only does smoking affect smokers, but unfortunately the chemicals and tar are carried on their clothes and hair and can also affect children around them, regardless if they smoke inside the home or not. It is known that children and babies who live in a home where there are smokers are more prone to asthma, ear, nose and chest infections. They also have an increased risk of dying from cot death and are more at risk of having cancer as an adult. About 17,000 children under five years old in England and Wales are admitted to hospital each year due to illnesses caused by their parents smoking.
The benefits of stopping smoking are almost instantaneous. After 72 hours breathing becomes easier, the tubes in your lungs begin to relax and your energy levels increase. After one month the appearance of skin improves as there is better blood flow to the skin, which is rich in oxygen. After three to nine months, coughing, wheezing and breathing problems improve and lung function increases by up to 10 per cent.
By one year, the risk of a heart attack falls to about half of that of a smoker, after 10 years the risk of lung cancer falls to about half that of a smoker. After 15 years the risk of a heart attack falls to the same level as someone who has never smoked.
On average if you are a long-term smoker your life expectancy is about 10 years less than a non-smoker
However, if you have smoked since being a young adult and stop before the age of 35, your life expectancy is only slightly less than people who have never smoked, and if you stop before the age of 50, you decrease the risk of dying from smoking related diseases by 50 per cent.
HOW TO DO IT
There are several ways available to help you give up. They range from a variety of nicotine replacement treatments, such as lozenges, and patches, to medications which act centrally on the brain to reduce cravings (Zyban and Champix). These can all be prescribed through your GP, who can also direct you to specialised non-smoking clinics on the NHS which provide you with the ongoing support that is needed.
It is fundamental that the desire to want to stop smoking is initially there. One of the best ways to start this process is to write a list of reasons why you want to stop and ALSO a list of reasons why you should carry on! Then you need to set a date for stopping and throw away all ashtrays, lighters and cigarettes.
You need to be prepared for the withdrawal symptoms, which you might get; feeling nauseous (sick), headaches, anxiety, irritability and craving. All these are due to the lack of nicotine in your body. They tend to reach their peak about 12-24 hours after the last cigarette and gradually ease off. It is also important to appreciate that in a lot of cases coughing becomes more of a problem initially, but will get easier. Try and be positive as in a few weeks you will start to feel better, smell better, taste better and have more money in your pocket.