Smoking and Cancer: Understand the Risk and What You Can Do to Control It

Smoking and Cancer: Understand the Risk and What You Can Do to Control It

CancerConnect News: Smoking tobacco cigarettes is responsible for drastically increasing the risk of the developing lung cancer— the number-one cause of cancer-related deaths in the U.S—as well as several other types of cancer (not to mention additional diseases).[1]

Tobacco use, primarily from cigarettes, is considered the single most preventable cause of death in this country. It is estimated that one-third of all cancer deaths would be eliminated if people did not smoke.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that 44.5 million people in the U.S. are smokers, and approximately 8.6 million of these individuals currently have a chronic disease that is directly related to smoking.[2]

But, even with the known risk factors associated with smoking, quitting the habit can be incredibly difficult. In response, smoking cessation programs have been designed to help people quit smoking and improve their overall health. However, there’s much room for improving the methods smokers use to quit their addictive habit.

Chantrix® is one medication approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to help ease the difficulties in quitting smoking.

How Chantrix Helps Smokers Quit

Nicotine from cigarette smoke binds to nicotine receptors in cells of the brain. This binding initiates a biologic cascade that results in a nearly immediate release of dopamine into circulation. This dopamine release creates the feelings that smokers crave.

Chantix is an oral agent that binds to nicotine receptors and thus prevents nicotine itself from binding to these receptors. Chantix produces effects similar to those caused by nicotine; this action reduces withdrawal symptoms associated with quitting smoking. In addition, if the individual resumes smoking, use of Chantix will block effects of nicotine from cigarettes.

There were six clinical trials that prompted FDA approval of Chantix.[3] The trials included a total of nearly 3,660 smokers who were chronic users of cigarettes. Five of these trials directly compared Chantix to placebo (inactive substitute). Participants in these trials have averaged 21 cigarettes per day for approximately 25 years.

  • In these studies, individuals were more likely to quit smoking if treated with Chantix than placebo.
  • In one phase III trial, individuals were more likely to quit smoking if treated with Chantix than with Zyban® (medication used for smoking-cessation) or placebo.
  • At one year, however, only 20% of patients treated with Chantix remained smoke-free.

Chantix is approved for a 12-week course. Patients who successfully quit smoking in these 12 weeks may receive an additional 12 weeks of Chantix to further improve their chances of long-term smoking cessation.

Added Incentive

If understanding your increased risks associated with smoking doesn’t give you enough incentive to quite smoking, do it for your family and friends. Exposure to second-hand smoke (ETS) is the third-leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S. It is thought to account for roughly 3,000 lung cancer deaths each year, 1,000 of which occur in nonsmokers.1

A recent study indicated that carcinogens (cancer-causing particles) in second-hand cigarette smoke can be found in infant’s urine.[4]

One way to assess the extent of an individual’s exposure to ETS is to measure markers of tobacco exposure in urine. Cancer-causing agents in tobacco smoke are processed (metabolized) by the body, and the products that result from this process can be detected in urine.

One of the known cancer-causing agents in tobacco is NNK (4-[methylnitrosamino]-1-[3-pyridyl]-1-butanone). In order to test infants for exposure to this agent, researchers conducted a study among 144 infants who lived in homes where at least one parent smoked. The infants were between the ages of three and 12 months. Urine samples from the infants were tested for a marker of NNK uptake by the body, known as total NNAL.

  • Total NNAL was detected in the urine of 67 of the 144 infants (46.5%).
  • Among infants with detectable NNAL, the average number of cigarettes smoked each week by family members in the presence of the infant was 76.
  • Among infants with undetectable NNAL, the average number of cigarettes smoked each week by family members in the presence of the infant was 27.
  • The average level of NNAL detected in these infants was higher than the level detected in most studies of ETS exposure in adults. The researchers speculate that this higher level of exposure in infants may result from the proximity of infants to smoking mothers.

The researchers conclude that “the results of this study show substantial uptake of NNK in infants exposed to ETS and support the concept that persistent ETS exposure in childhood could be related to cancer later in life.”

In conclusion, quitting smoking not only improves your own health, but the health of those around you, including your children. Now, with the help of Chantrix, smoking cessation may be an attainable goal for many more people, making for a healthier population.

If you are a current smoker, you may wish to ask your physician about Chantrix in combination with a comprehensive smoking cessation program. It is never too late to reap the benefits of quitting smoking.


[1] National Cancer Institute. Cigarette Smoking and Cancer: Questions and Answers. Available at: Accessed May 2006.

[2] Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Tobacco Information and Prevention Source (TIPS). Available at: Accessed May 2006.

[3] United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). FDA Approves Novel Medication for Smoking Cessation. Available at: Accessed May 2006.

[4] Hecht SS, Carmella SG, Le K-A et al. 4-(Methylnitrosoamino)-1-(3-Pyridyl)-1-Butanol and its Glucuronides in the Urine of Infants Exposed to Environmental Tobacco Smoke. Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention. 2006;15:988-92.

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