Reducing Lung Cancer Risk Through Quitting
- Rockstar and breast cancer survivor Melissa Etheridge, 61, is offering support to actress Natasha Lyonne, 43, as she quits smoking.
- Smoking has been linked to many cancers, and it is the number one risk factor for lunch cancer.
- A recent study suggests that smokers who quit their habit by age 45 canceled out 87% of excess lung cancer risk.
- Support networks, exercise, relaxation techniques, nicotine replacement therapy and counseling can all be incredibly helpful tools for people who want to quit smoking.
Etheridge, 61, was on tour in the summer of 2004 when she discovered a lump in her left breast. After undergoing a lumpectomy to remove a 4-centimeter tumor from her breast, surgery to remove 14 lymph nodes after discovering her breast cancer had spread, dose-dense chemotherapy and radiation therapy, she is cancer-free today.Read More
hey @nlyonne I see you are quitting smoking. As a 19year cancer thriver I want to give you all of the encouragement I can. Your show #PokerFace freaking rocks!! Just like #RussianDoll you are amazing! You got this!! It’s so cool!!— Melissa Etheridge (@metheridge) March 4, 2023
“hey @nlyonne I see you are quitting smoking,” she Tweeted to Lyonne. “As a 19year cancer thriver I want to give you all of the encouragement I can. Your show #PokerFace freaking rocks!! Just like #RussianDoll you are amazing! You got this!! It’s so cool!!”
As anyone who’s been a smoker can attest to, quitting the habit is hard. So, Lyonne has been holding herself accountable by sharing little bits of her journey along the way.
He’s so nice to come & coach me not to smoke 😭 my own Wings of Desire https://t.co/Q1n0xjNnVq
— natasha lyonne (@nlyonne) March 3, 2023
She even took to Twitter to ask “why can’t someone invent a healthy cigarette?”
“I thought this was the future,” she wrote jokingly.
SurvivorNet commends any and all efforts to quit smoking cigarettes. So, we’re happy to see Lyonne doing everything she can to end the habit.
Smoking and Cancer Risk
The American Cancer Society estimates that smoking causes about 20% of all cancers and about 30% of all cancer deaths in the United States.
“We know that there is a causal relationship between smoking and both incidents of cancer and the chance of dying from cancer,” Dr. Andrea Tufano-Sugarman of NYU Langone Health previously told SurvivorNet. “And there are very few things in science that have a cause and effect relationship, but this is one of them, which is very powerful.”
The National Cancer Institute reports that tobacco use causes many cancers including cancer of the lung, larynx (voice box), mouth, esophagus, throat, bladder, kidney, liver, colon and rectum, stomach, pancreas and cervix, as well as acute myeloid leukemia (a type of blood cancer). People who use smokeless tobacco (snuff or chewing tobacco) have increased risks of cancers of the mouth, esophagus and pancreas.
Lung Cancer in Smokers vs. Non-Smokers
Lung cancer – the second most common type of cancer (along with prostate cancer) in the United States – is the leading cause of cancer deaths for men and women in the United States. It’s important to note that non-smokers still do get lung cancer, but cigarette smoking is the number one risk factor for the disease. This is because tobacco smoke contains a mixture of more than 7,000 different chemicals – at least 70 of which are known to cause cancer.
The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention states that cigarette smoking is linked to about 80-90% of lung cancer deaths, and people who smoke cigarettes are 15 to 30 times more likely to get lung cancer or die from lung cancer than people who don’t smoke. Additionally, second-hand smoke can cause lung cancer. The CDC estimates that secondhand smoke causes more than 7,300 lung cancer deaths each year among U.S. adults who do not smoke.
How to Quit Smoking Cigarettes
Thinking about quitting smoking but figuring that it’s too late to make a difference? Think again.
Recent research published in JAMA Oncology suggests that smokers who quit their habit by age 45 canceled out 87% of excess lung cancer risk. Smokers who quit by 35 effectively eliminated their excess risk. In addition, the researcher who led the study said smokers who beat their addiction by their 50s and early 60s also meaningfully reduced their risk of dying from cancer.
Take it From a Guy Who Looks at Diseased Lungs Every Day — Stop Smoking
Dr. Andrea Tufano-Sugarman often counsels cancer patients who are trying to quit smoking, which, she says, is similar to counseling other smokers.
RELATED: Quitting Smoking Early Pays Off: New Research Finds that Smokers Who Quit By 45 Reduce Their Excess Lung Cancer Risk by 87%; Tips For Quitting
When Dr. Tufano-Sugarman works with people with cancer, counseling is often paired with nicotine replacement therapy. She usually prescribes a daily nicotine patch to manage withdrawal symptoms, as well as a fast-acting option to curb cravings like a nicotine gum, inhaler or spray.
Quitting Smoking Can Help the Success of Your Lung Cancer Surgery
Her advice for people trying to quit smoking? Know that the process is not always linear.
“There’s going to be slip-ups and relapses,” she said. “But above all, it’s never too late to stop.”
Strategies for Managing Tobacco Cravings:
- Nicotine replacement therapy. As Dr. Tufano-Sugarman discussed, nicotine replacement therapy is one of the main tools that smokers can use to help them quit. Long-acting therapies like nicotine patches can be paired with short acting therapies (i.e. nicotine gum, lozenges, nasal spray and inhalers) to cope with intense cravings. E-cigarettes and vapes are also smoking substitutes, but more research will be needed to gauge the effectiveness and dangers of these and other substitutes.
- Steer clear of triggers. Cravings can come on strong when you’re in a situation where you’re used to having tobacco. Knowing what these environments are for you and making plans for how you can manage them without tobacco or avoid them completely are crucial.
- Wait. Feel yourself on the brink of giving in to a tobacco craving? Try to delay smoking for 10 minutes and do something that might distract you. Move to a non-smoking area to make it less convenient for you to smoke. Cravings can often subside if given time.
- Chew something. Whether it’s gum, candy or vegetables, chew something that will occupy your mouth when you’re trying to resist your cravings.
- Don’t give in to the “just one more” mentality. Smoking once only leads to smoking again. Be careful not to convince yourself that you can satisfy a tobacco craving and then quit after that.
- Exercise more. Exercise is a healthy habit to get into no matter what, but it can also help distract you from tobacco cravings and make them less intense. Even short periods of physical activity can help tobacco cravings go away.
- Try relaxation techniques. Finding new ways to de-stress can be a key part of quitting smoking. Techniques like deep-breathing, yoga, visualization, muscle relaxation and massage can open new doors for the way you relate to stress and smoking.
- Reach out for support. Having strong support systems is essential both for people battling cancer and people battling tobacco addiction. Talking to a friend or family member on the phone or going for a walk can serve as a reminder that you’re not in this alone.
- Research other resources. The Mayo Clinic recommends a free telephone line—800-QUIT-NOW (800-784-8669)—for support and counseling. There are also online support groups for smokers trying to quit, and blogs where people share how they manage the same challenges you are facing.
- Remind yourself why you want to quit. Whether your goal is to feel better, reduce your cancer risk, get healthier, save money or prepare for cancer treatment, it can help to write down or speak aloud the reason(s) you decided to quit in the first place.
Contributing: Joe Kerwin
Learn more about SurvivorNet's rigorous medical review process.