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Morning smoking linked to higher risk of head and neck cancer

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Smokers who light up first thing in the morning have a higher risk of developing head and neck cancer than those who wait that little bit longer for their first cigarette of the day, a study has suggested.

A research team from the Penn State College of Medicine in America investigated whether nicotine dependence, as characterised by the time smokers take to have their first cigarette after waking, affects smokers’ risk of lung, head and neck cancers independent of cigarette smoking frequency and duration.

They analysed 1,055 people with head and neck cancers and 795 who did not have cancer, all of whom were cigarette smokers.

Individuals who smoked 31 minutes to an hour after waking were 1.42 times more likely to develop head and neck cancer than those who waited more than hour before having a nicotine fix.

Those who waited less than half an hour to have their first cigarette of the day were 1.59 times as likely to develop head and neck cancer.

According to Cancer, a journal of the American Cancer Society, the results of the study may help identify smokers who have an especially high risk of developing cancer and would therefore benefit from targeted smoking interventions.

Dr Joshua Muscar, lead researcher, said: “These smokers have higher levels of nicotine and possibly other tobacco toxins in their body, and they may be more addicted than smokers who refrain from smoking for a half hour or more.”

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