People who reach for a morning cigarette are doubling their risk of developing lung and mouth cancer.
That’s according to new research that suggests people who smoke within five minutes of waking up are more at risk from the harmful effects of tobacco compared to those who waited for at least one hour.
The time it takes for a person to light up is also an indicator of their addiction to smoking.
With tobacco use still the biggest cause of mouth cancer and up to half of all smokers eventually dying of a tobacco-related illness, the research presents a clear warning to morning smokers.
The news is further bad news for morning smokers, adding to research that discovered morning smokers have a harder time quitting. Given that mouth cancer is one of the few cancers predicted to rise over the next decade, Dr Nigel Carter, chief executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, hopes smokers will take notice of the warning.
Dr Carter said: ‘A cigarette in the morning isn’t an easy thing to give up. Research has shown this. However, if a morning cigarette exposes people to twice the amount of harmful chemicals caused by smoking, it is something people musty ditch immediately.
‘Mouth cancer is a very real problem in the UK. Latest figures show that it claims more lives than road traffic accidents do, and of more concern is that the disease is on the rise.
‘Despite the predicted rise in mortalities and cases, there is not always a great deal of publicity surrounding the disease. This is why it is important to take action through campaigns like Mouth Cancer Action Month every November in the UK, raising awareness of the risk factors and what to look out for.
‘Indulging in a poor diet and the emergence of the Human papillomavirus (HPV), transmitted via oral sex, are further lifestyle behaviours that are known risk factors for mouth cancer. The changing demographics of mouth cancer sufferers mean more people than ever before need to be aware of what these risk factors are.
‘As early detection plays such a pivotal role in survival rates, it is really important that everyone knows the warning signs for mouth cancer. They include mouth ulcers which do not heal within three weeks, red and white patches in the mouth and unusual lumps or swellings in the mouth. Our advice to everyone is this – if in doubt, get checked out.”
The study, presented in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, included 1,945 participants from the 2007/2008 and 2009/2010 National Health and Nutrition and Examination Survey.