As health organisations across the world
observe Lung Cancer Awareness Month, Be Cancer Aware, one of South Africa’s
cancer information hubs, will be kicking off their second annual “Too cool to
smoke” campaign in November.
This initiative invites all smokers in
South Africa to take the first step and unite with other South Africans in
support of lung cancer by quitting for the day on the Thursday 14th November.
By quitting even for a day, smokers will be
taking an important step towards a healthier life – one that can lead to
reducing cancer risk. Within 20 minutes of quitting, blood pressure returns to
normal, and within eight hours, the carbon monoxide level in the blood drops.
After 48 hours, the ability to smell and taste is improved. From two weeks to
three months after quitting, lung function increases. And that’s just the
Non-smokers can also get involved and help
promote the cause by donning their shades to work on the 14th and showing the
world that they are “too cool to smoke”. Go one better and upload the photos to
the Be Cancer Aware Facebook page and thereby motivate others to do the same.
use can cause serious health implications
Tobacco use kills nearly six million people
per year. Approximately one person dies every six seconds due to tobacco, which
accounts for one in ten adult deaths worldwide. With this in mind, it is no
wonder that research has shown a correlation between smoking and cancer, where
at least 80% of all diagnoses of lung cancer are attributed to cigarette
Lung cancer and other respiratory problems
can also affect non-smokers, and this is because there is no safe level of
exposure to tobacco. Toxins from the cigarettes are able to enter the
bloodstream and contribute to the thickening of artery walls, which accelerates
the process of various heart and lung problems[i]. Furthermore, studies
illustrate that lung cancer is no longer a male-dominated disease – there has
been an increase in female smokers, leading to a rise in the number of women
who are developing this type of cancer as well.
reality of the situation
Lung cancer can be extremely difficult to
treat because most of the symptoms are not visible until the disease has
progressed to an advanced stage. This means that by the time the cancer is
found, it is usually too late to treat
effectively, and many of these patients
have poor survival outcomes.
goes a long way
Smoking and tobacco use is the single most
preventable cause of death globally. A recent survey from the Medical Research
Council has published some shocking results – nearly half of Western Cape
learners in grade 8 to 10 are currently smoking. Adding to this, research
conducted for the 2008 National Youth Risk Behaviour Survey found that one
fifth of South African high school learners are smokers.
Hopefully by illustrating that smoking is
one of the most common risk factors for lung cancer and that the harmful
substances in smoke can damage lung tissue, South Africa can lower these
According to Dr Georgia Demetriou, an
oncologist at Wits Donald Gordon Medical Centre, “the burden of lung cancer is
high, but awareness of the disease is very low as compared with other diseases
such as breast cancer. This is why it’s important to get involved in awareness
initiatives to help educate and inform people about this deadly disease, where
early detection is key.”
She continues, “through increased
awareness, together with exciting advances in new treatments, patients can have
a more informed and optimistic outlook upon diagnosis.”
The aim of this initiative is to create
awareness about tobacco addiction and the detrimental effect it has on the
body. The numbers say it all – tobacco kills at least 44 000 South Africans
every year and 5.4 million people worldwide, and ten per cent of which die from
complications arising from second-hand smoke.
If you are a smoker, take this opportunity
to kick the habit this month, and notice the changes in your health and the
people around you. The Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa show that
within two days of quitting, there is no nicotine left in the body, and smell
and taste begin to improve. Within two to 12 weeks, lung function improves by
30% and within 10 years, the risk of lung cancer halves compared to a smoker.
After 15 years, your risk of heart disease and stroke is almost identical to a
Smokers who feel they need a bit of help to
quit can contact the National Council Against Smoking or the Cancer Association
of South Africa. Find out more on the Be Cancer Aware website
(www.becanceraware.co.za) and Facebook page.
Picture: Sunglasses from Shutterstock