Tag Archives: smoking and lung cancer

Could Genetics Play a Role in Degrees of Addiction?

As a practicing hypochondriac it was of particular interest to me to learn about a research company in, of all places, Iceland, which is making what could be historic advances in medicine through the study of human genetics.

This company, deCODE genetics, is exploiting a most unusual data base: that of the total population of Iceland where excellent records have been kept since Norwegian and Celtic (Scottish and Irish) settlers arrived there about ten centuries ago. Today there are only slightly more than 300 000 Icelanders, of whom 94 percent are descended from the original settlers. For gene searchers this is, apparently, like a gift from heaven.

It is akin to having a vast private laboratory, enabling research on thousands of volunteers uniquely related in a manner which renders the search for genetic clues to future health problems. For example, more than 50,000 Icelanders, that is one-sixth of the population, participated in research into the disposition to smoking and, for smokers, the inherent risks of contracting diseases linked to nicotine.

Now deCODE is coming up with suggestions that, through the study of human genetic makeup, or our DNA, it can be predicted with accuracy that one will be predisposed to a particular kind of illness or even, as in the case of cigarette smoking, particular types of addiction.

The company’s scientists have established “a clear link between a single-letter variant of the human genome (SNP) and susceptibility to nicotine dependence.”

Such addiction can lead, for example, to lung cancer and peripheral arterial disease (PAD), a common and debilitating constriction of the arteries to the legs.

The odds of this happening to a given individual can be calculated using these genetic techniques.

The research, which also studied smokers in New Zealand, Austria, Sweden, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain, revealed that there is correspondence not only between genetic makeup and the likelihood of addiction but also to the approximate number of cigarettes an addict is likely to smoke daily.

DeCODE has also isolated key genes “contributing to major public health challenges from cardiovascular disease to cancer, genes that are providing us with drug targets rooted in the basic biology of disease”.

smoking cigarettesGiven the incidence in South Africa of dermatological problems such as the deadly cutaneous melanoma (CM) and basal cell carcinoma (BCC) it is interesting to learn that it is not only very fair skin, blue or green eyes, freckles, red hair and exposure to ultraviolet light (obviously prevalent in South Africa) that can expose one to CM and BCC.

Scientists at deCODE have discovered that “a novel, tightly-linked pair of single-letter variants” near a certain gene on chromosome 20 and another on chromosome 11 specifically increases our susceptibility to sunburn and hence to its dangers.

All this should be of enormous future use to the medical profession, although one suspects that our health minister, Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, would probably prefer some quackery or other for guidance rather than the research of serious Icelandic scientists.

Interestingly, the company offers a personal, on-line service for those wishing to explore their genome tree or whatever geneticists call these things. Just log on to www.decodeme.com – although I haven’t done this, so I cannot advise you what to expect.

By the way, this little cutting edge company is listed on the Nasdaq in New York and the stock quote is DCGN. This writer holds no shares.

Source: Stephen Mulholland, Dispatch Online

Researchers Identify Genetic Variant Linked To Nicotine Addiction

NIDA Researchers Identify Genetic Variant Linked To Nicotine Addiction And Lung Cancer – Variant Also Increases Risk For Cardiovascular Disease

Scientists have identified a genetic variant that not only makes smokers more susceptible to nicotine addiction but also increases their risk of developing two smoking-related diseases, lung cancer and peripheral arterial disease.

The research was supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The study, published in the April 3 issue of the journal Nature, “highlights the advances that are being made in genetics research, which can now identify gene variants that increase the risk of complex bio-behavioral disorders,” says NIH Director Dr. Elias Zerhouni. “This finding will help us in our efforts to further reduce the scope and devastating consequences of cigarette smoking.”

“These results suggest for the first time that a single genetic variant not only can predispose to nicotine addiction but may also increase sensitivity to extremely serious smoking-related diseases,” explains NIDA Director Dr. Nora Volkow. “Additionally, it points to potential targets for new smoking-cessation medications that may be more effective at helping smokers to quit.”

The variant is closely linked to two of the known subunits of nicotine receptors, the sites on the surface of many cells in the brain and body that can be bound by nicotine. When nicotine attaches to these receptors in the brain, there are changes in cell activity that results in its addictive effects.Carriers of this genetic variant are more likely than noncarriers to be heavy smokers, dependent on nicotine, and less likely to quit smoking. “The variant does not increase the likelihood that a person will start smoking, but for people who do smoke it increases the likelihood of addiction,” says Dr. Kári Stefánsson, the study’s principal investigator and chief executive officer of deCODE Genetics, a biopharmaceutical company based in Reykjavik, Iceland.

The variant was identified through a technique known as genome-wide association, in which DNA samples (from more than 10,000 Icelandic smokers) were analyzed for the presence of more than 300,000 genetic markers. Subsequent investigation showed that carriers of the variant strongly associated with nicotine dependence were also at increased risk for two smoking-related diseases, peripheral arterial disease and lung cancer. The findings were replicated in populations from five European countries and New Zealand. The researchers estimate that the variant explains 18 percent of cases of lung cancer and 10 percent of cases of peripheral arterial disease in smokers.

Nicotine addictionThe same variant was identified as one that increased risk for lung cancer in two other articles appearing in the April 3rd, 2008, issues of Nature and Nature Genetics, partially funded by two other NIH institutes–the National Cancer Institute and the National Human Genome Research Institute.

For more information on Smoking/Nicotine: http://www.drugabuse.gov/DrugPages/Nicotine.html

The National Institute on Drug Abuse

The National Institute on Drug Abuse is a component of the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIDA supports most of the world’s research on the health aspects of drug abuse and addiction.

The Institute carries out a large variety of programs to inform policy and improve practice. Fact sheets on the health effects of drugs of abuse and information on NIDA research and other activities can be found on the NIDA web site at http://www.drugabuse.gov.

The National Institutes of Health

(NIH) – The Nation’s Medical Research Agency – includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

It is the primary Federal agency for conducting and supporting basic, clinical and translational medical research, and it investigates the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit http://www.nih.gov.

Reminder to Smokers: Your Lungs Are Aging

A simple discussion of lung capacity appears to double the rate patients follow a doctor’s advice to quit smoking.

A study published online (March 7 in the British journal BMJ) suggests that if a doctor tells smokers their “lung age” — the age of the average healthy nonsmoker who would match them in breathing strength — they are more likely to stop smoking.

Using a spirometer, a device that measures how fast and how much air a person can breathe, British doctors tested 561 smokers, men and women with an average age of 53.

Half were randomly assigned to receive their results as lung age, explained with a chart showing lung capacity as it normally decreases with age. The other half were told the amount of air in liters they could force out in one second and were to return in a year “to see if there has been any change in lung function. ”The subjects with readings that suggested a medical problem were referred to their physicians.

Regardless of the results, all participants were advised to quit smoking, informed about government programs to stop smoking and told that the test of lung function did not show anything about other serious diseases that smoking causes.

Twelve months later, the scientists tested participants for carbon monoxide in their breath and cotinine in their saliva, reliable indicators of smoking. Of those who were not told their lung age 6.4 percent were no longer smoking, and 13.6 percent of those who knew their lung age had quit.

Dr. Gary Parkes, the lead author and a general practitioner in Hertfordshire, said that at first the smokers were not highly motivated to quit. More than 60 percent had made no plans to do so.

According to background information in the report, a physician’s simple advice results in a 4 to 6 percent rate of quitting.

“All smokers should have a lung function test,” Dr. Parkes said. “Sixteen percent of our sample had lung damage they didn’t know about. And communicating lung function as lung age is a good psychological tool for helping people make decisions about their own health.”

There was no evidence that subjects with poorer lung function were more likely to quit. A 45-year-old who was told her lung age was normal was as likely to stop as one told her lung age was 65. Although the study could not prove it, merely being presented with the facts of lung function in a vivid and understandable way was apparently enough to encourage people to stop smoking.

Aging LungsThe authors speculate that when told lung function is normal, a smoker feels encouraged to quit before it is too late, and when shown that it is abnormal is motivated to stop by the fear of further deterioration. The precise psychological forces remain unclear, but the scientists cite previous research that suggested that information presented as a prospect for gain is more persuasive than negative messages about costs or disadvantages.

Source: NICHOLAS BAKALAR, NY Times

Smoking’s Effects on Genes May Play a Role in Lung Cancer Development and Survival

Smoking plays a role in lung cancer development, and now scientists have shown that smoking also affects the way genes are expressed, leading to alterations in cell division and regulation of immune response.

Notably, some of the changes in gene expression persisted in people who had quit smoking many years earlier.

These findings by researchers at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the National Institutes of Health, appeared in the Feb. 20, 2008, issue of PLoS ONE.

“Smoking, we are well aware, is the leading cause of lung cancer worldwide,” said NCI Director John E. Niederhuber, M.D. “Yet, a mechanistic understanding of the effects of smoking on the cells of the lung remains incomplete. This study demonstrates an important piece of this complicated puzzle. Greater understanding of the genetic alterations that occur with smoking should provide greater insight into the development of cellular targets for treating, and possibly preventing, lung cancer.”

“We were able to look at actual lung tissue, tumor and non-tumor, taking into account the differences by gender, verifying the smoking status by measuring levels of cotinine, a metabolite of nicotine, in participants’ plasma, and confirming results in independent samples,” said Maria Teresa Landi, M.D., Ph.D., in NCI’s Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, the first author of the study report.

To investigate the effects of smoking on gene activity in lung tissue, the researchers examined the gene expression profiles — patterns of gene activity — in early-stage lung tumors and non-tumor lung tissue of smokers, former smokers, and people who had never smoked cigarettes. Gene expression was measured in 58 fresh-frozen tumor and 49 fresh-frozen non-tumor samples from 74 participants of the Environment And Genetics in Lung cancer Etiology (EAGLE) study, a large lung cancer study that was conducted in the Lombardy region of Italy.

Adenocarcinoma tumor samples were evaluated in this study because adenocarcinoma is the most common type of lung cancer, and it occurs in both smokers and people with no history of smoking. The participants were 44 to 79 years of age, and 28 were current smokers, 26 were former smokers, and 20 had never smoked. The researchers also obtained detailed medical information about the participants (for example, whether individuals had previous lung diseases or chemotherapy) and biochemically confirmed participants’ smoking status.

Using microarray techniques, which allow researchers to look at the activity of thousands of genes simultaneously, they identified 135 genes that were differently expressed in tumors of smokers vs. people who had never smoked. Among these genes, 81 showed decreased expression and 54 showed increased expression in tumor tissue.

Most of the genes showing significantly increased expression, e.g., TTK, NEK2, and PRC1, are involved in cell cycle regulation and mitosis. The cell cycle is a step-wise sequence of events in which a cell grows and ultimately divides to produce two progeny, or daughter, cells. During the cell cycle, the chromosomes of the parent cell are duplicated and then, in a step called mitosis, divided equally between the daughter cells, ensuring that each daughter cell inherits a complete set of chromosomes. The cell apparatus responsible for the proper division of chromosomes is called the mitotic spindle.

Picture of Lungs“Our results indicate that smoking causes changes in genes that control mitotic spindle formation,” said Jin Jen, Ph.D., in NCI’s Center for Cancer Research, a senior author of the study report. “Irregular division of chromosomes and chromosome instability are two common abnormalities that occur in cancer cells when the chromosomes do not separate equally between the daughter cells. Therefore, changes in the mitotic process are very relevant in the development of cancer.” Several of the identified genes have been suggested in the past as potential targets for cancer treatment.

The researchers also found similar expression of many genes among current smokers and former smokers in tumor tissue. Several of these genes, such as STOM, SSX2IP, and APLP2, remained altered in participants who had quit smoking more than 20 years before the study. Therefore, smoking seems to cause long-lasting changes in gene expression, which can contribute to lung cancer development long after cessation.

Looking at non-tumor lung tissues, the team found decreased activity for 73 genes and increased activity for 25 genes in current smokers. The genes most affected by smoking play a role in immune response-related processes, possibly as a lung defense mechanism against the acute toxic effects of smoking. However, non-tumor tissues seem to be able to recover from the effects of smoking. The researchers did not identify significant changes in the immune response-related genes in former smokers.

To gain a better understanding of the impact of smoking-related changes in gene expression on lung cancer survival, the researchers compared the overall gene expression smoking profile in lung tumor and non-tumor tissues with survival. They found that the altered expression of the cell cycle-related genes NEK2 and TTK in non-tumor tissues was associated with a three-fold increased risk of lung cancer mortality in smokers.

“Our data provide clues on how cigarette smoking affects the development of lung cancer, indicating that the very same mitotic genes known to be involved in cancer development are altered by smoking and affect survival. More studies are needed to confirm that the gene expression changes are due to smoking and affect tumor development or progression,” said Landi. “If confirmed, these genes could become important targets for preventing and treating lung cancer.”

About 90 percent of lung cancer deaths among men and almost 80 percent of lung cancer deaths among women can be attributed to smoking. In 2006, approximately 20.8 percent of U.S. adults were cigarette smokers. Cigarette smoking remains the leading preventable cause of death in the United States, causing an estimated 438,000 deaths, or about one out of every five deaths each year.

For more information on research in Dr. Landi’s group, please go to http://dceg.cancer.gov/about/staff-bios/landi-maria.

For more information about the EAGLE study, please go to http://dceg.cancer.gov/eagle.

For more information about cancer, please visit the NCI website at http://www.cancer.gov/, or call NCI’s Cancer Information Service at 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237).

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) — The Nation’s Medical Research Agency — includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is the primary federal agency for conducting and supporting basic, clinical and translational medical research, and it investigates the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.


Reference:
Landi MT, Dracheva T, Rotunno M, Figueroa, JD, Liu H, Dasgupta A, Mann FE, Fukuoka J, Hames M, Bergen AW, Murphy SE, Yang P, Pesatori AC, Consonni D, Bertazzi PA, Wacholder S, Shih JH, Caporaso NE, and Jen J. February 2008. Gene Expression Signature of Cigarette Smoking and Its Role in Lung Adenocarcinoma Development and Survival. PLoS ONE. Vol. 3, No. 2.

Chris Conner Dead of Lung Cancer at 37

Columbia, SC, (WIS) – A local musician and anti-smoking activist died Wednesday evening after a long battle with lung cancer according to his family.

Chris Conner was a member of the Midlands band Sourwood Honey, and was diagnosed with lung cancer earlier this year.

“He was never afraid and he was completely at peace with God,” said Chris’s family on their website.

“From the beginning of this battle to the very end Chris has been strong, cracking jokes, laughing, concerned for his family and friends before himself and his faith was steadfast.”

Read the rest of the article here

Chris Conner's Family PhotoChris was a smoker for 16 years and quit two years before becoming ill.

We are sorry for the family’s loss and extend our heart felt wishes for comfort to his family.

It’s a Drag: Is it Time to Quit? – Take the Great American Smokeout Challenge

When you’re a smoker, especially in California, which boasts the second-lowest number of adult smokers in the country next to Utah, very few sweet voices greet you throughout your day.

Most people just want to get away from you.

There’s no smoking indoors in public places or outside in parks or playgrounds.

In some cities, like in Oakland, you can’t smoke in ATM lines or at bus stops. And in Belmont, smokers soon will not be allowed to smoke inside their own apartment or condominium.

So maybe there’s no time like the present to quit.

Stubbing That CiggyAnd if you do try, as thousands of Americans will Nov. 15 during the Great American Smokeout, you will hear one friendly voice on the other end of the line at 1-800-NO-BUTTS (1-800-662-8887), the California Smokers’ Helpline.

If you’re lucky, you might reach Loraine, a former smoker whose mission is to help others quit. She sweetly asks her clients the tough questions, like how many cigarettes they smoke per day and how smoking makes them feel.

She then walks them through the ways in which they can break the habit, either cold turkey or by using nonsmoking aids.

“We want you to be as comfortable as possible when you do this,” she says, as she coaches a client into a nonsmoking plan. At the end of a 30-minute conversation, Loraine sends her client a certificate and promises to call on the quit date. A week or two after the quit date, Loraine will call again.

There is no magic bullet to quit smoking, no miracle cure that will take away cravings or erase smoking behavior, no matter what new drug comes out. “As Yoda would say, the magic bullet resides within you,” says Dr. Steven Schroeder, director of the Smoking Cessation Leadership Center at the University of California, San Francisco.

Despite an occasional “Star Wars” quote, Schroeder minces no words when he talks about the grasp the habit has on smokers.

“Nicotine is more addictive than heroin or crack cocaine,” he says. The good news is, the number of smokers in the United States is decreasing. For the first time, there are more former smokers than current smokers out there. Just 12 percent of California adults smoke, compared to about 20 percent of the American population as a whole.

Schroeder has been working with smokers for about 15 years and writes papers on the subject of quitting. He says first, smokers need to want to quit. They then need to find the right time to do it and set a quit date. Next, smokers need to bolster the reasons why they want to quit and figure out the temptation triggers and try to erase them.

Then, he says, smokers should decide which cessation aids are right for them.

There are a variety of such products on the market, from over-the-counter nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) aids such as nicotine gum and the nicotine skin patch to prescription NRTs and non-nicotine prescription medications such as bupropion and the newer medication, Chantix. (which comes with some pretty severe side effects.)

The bad news is, none of these aids is 100 percent effective. In fact, none is 50 percent effective. Drug company Pfizer’s own studies on Chantix say it’s 44 percent successful, the highest of all. “We think it is the best drug so far,” says Dr. Kolawole Okuyemi of the University of Minnesota Medical School, who wrote a paper on the subject titled “Interventions to Facilitate Smoking Cessation” and studies multi-ethnic populations and their smoking habits.

Other drugs, including nicotine gum and the patch, have success rates of about 20 percent. About 2.5 to 5 percent of smokers are successful at quitting without any aids.

Drugs act differently on people of different races, depending on the type of cigarette used, such as mentholated versus non-mentholated, Okuyemi says, so it is not easy to predict what will work on whom.

It takes a combination of products and counseling to really help people quit, says Dr. Jodi Prochaska, clinical psychologist and assistant professor at the University of California, San Francisco.

While alternative therapies are sometimes touted as a cure to help people quit, Prochaska says there is no good evidence that acupuncture helps smokers quit. There is some evidence that stop smoking hypnosis can be helpful.

Kaiser Permanente of Northern California’s patients smoke at a rate of about 9 percent, compared to 12 percent of the general California population. This is due, in part, to the nonprofit health care provider’s proactive stance, says Jeanne Reisman, chief of health education for Kaiser Permanente’s Oakland Medical Center and anti-tobacco champion.

Kaiser physicians identify smokers during visits and encourage them to quit. The company offers smoking cessation classes to its patients and offers discounts on stop-smoking aids. “There are a lot of messages that smokers receive about being asked whether they smoke and about being advised to quit,” Reisman says.

Say you’ve tried to quit smoking before, and it just hasn’t stuck. Reisman and other experts we interviewed say most people fail the first time, but the likelihood of being successful gets higher after several tries.

Quitting smoking, they say, is the best single thing anyone can do for his or her health. Smoking causes lung cancer, heart disease, respiratory problems, and can harm others who are exposed to the smoke.

The first step is up to you.

Reach Laura Casey at 925-952-2697 or lcasey@bayareanewsgroup.com.

Source: Laura Casey, Contra Costa Times

COPD & Facial Wrinkling Study

The presence, and perhaps the severity, of COPD might be predictable by examining the facial skin, and accelerated wrinkling could signal the need for studies of lung function.

Smoking is associated with other health-related problems, and future studies might attempt to correlate skin findings with cardiovascular disease in smokers.

Laboratory elucidation of the specific mechanism behind increased susceptibility would be useful and interesting.

Picture of Wrinkled Face from SmokingIf a genetic predisposition is identified, susceptible families and individuals might receive more urgent counsel to avoid smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke.

Learn more about > COPD.

— Jeffrey P. Callen, MD

Young Victim of Smoking Leaves Legacy for the Youth

We opened up with a joke on his first name.

With a gentle smile, Erphacksand Kinyua Mureithi explained that the name was handed down to him from his paternal grandfather, although it is biblical.

The challenge of doing this story from an interview that Kinyua gave a month before he died, is that it has to be in the past tense.

Kinyua was one of the youngest lung cancer cases recorded at the Kenyatta National Hospital in Nairobi.

Had he lived past July 23, he would have turned 30 in August.

Image of Lung CancerWhen Kinyua showed up for this interview, he was a brave young man who agreed to share with the world his experiences with lung cancer.

At the end of the interview, there was no mistaking the passion that he had for the legacy he wished to leave behind.

Leaders of Tomorrow

“If I had a forum, I would tell the youth that every decision they make in life will determine how they end up. I may not have been a smoker for a long time, but who knows, the disease might have caught up with me because of the few years I smoked. There is so much to live for because we are the leaders of tomorrow.”

Kinyua’s story is a point to ponder in light of the consequences of smoking.

The slim, soft-spoken man, seemingly humbled by an experience that came too early in his life, walked with a slight stoop.

However, he declared cheerfully to me that he had been feeling much better since he started treatment.

“It was bad. I could barely walk. I had to bend over because of the pain in my chest. Now I feel as if my lungs are all cleared up and I do not have to struggle to breath,” he said.

He was initially evasive about how he might have contracted lung cancer.

“I know I used to smoke, those years when I was young, playing truant and sneaking out of school for a puff or two. I never thought it was dangerous. Later I became an established smoker, not a chain-smoker. Just a casual smoker of about three or four cigarettes a day,” he said.

Bad Habit

“You never think about it, you just go ahead and smoke, not because you cannot live with the craving. It is just a bad habit that you develop, which becomes very difficult to shake off.”

About a year ago, in October, Kinyua who was then working as a casual labourer in Industrial Area started developing muscle pains on his right arm and back. He explained how the pain would attack him: “The pains could centre on the hands and slightly towards the right side of my chest. With time, they became almost un-bearable and the painkillers did not seem to work.

For almost six months, I was in and out of hospital getting a painkiller after another but with no satisfactory results.

Finally, a doctor that I had been seeing regularly recommended a CT scan to determine what exactly was ailing me. This is when a small growth in the chest was discovered.” Kinyua talked about the strenuous treatment that cancer patients go through.

“Were it not for my strong Christian background and the way the doctors prepared me for the hard news, I don’t think I would have made it. Also. As I later learnt, the tumours had been discovered fairly early and intercepted so I stood a better chance for recovery,” he had said gratefully and with a lot of hope.

His treatment included an operation on the chest to remove the malignant tumour.

Unfortunately the cancer had metastasised, meaning it had started spreading to other parts of Kinyua’s body.

After the operation, he stayed in hospital for one week before starting radiotherapy and chemotherapy treatment to ensure that all cancer cells were destroyed.

Radiotherapy took six weeks, with two minute-sessions every day.

Even though radiotherapy has side effects such as nausea and weakness of the body, Kinyua said his worst experience was the chemotherapy treatment.

This involved, a dosage of a combination of six drugs within a certain period of time.

t meant being in hospital for about four to six hours while drugs are administered. ” Chemo is the worst. Excessive vomiting follows the initial treatments and nausea and severe lack of appetite, which can render you extremely weak. A while after every chemo session, you have to go in for yet another CT scan to detect how much of the cancer cells have been destroyed and how much more are yet to be dealt with. It is an exhaustive and tiring encounter,” Kinyua had sighed as he explained.

Also straining was the financial cost of the treatment.

Were it not for his supportive superiors Leonard Sebastian and James Mugambi and employer Laborex Kenya, Kinyua said that he might not have been able to pay the bills.

He was also grateful to his colleague Ann Kinyanjui who picked and dropped him at hospital throughout.

For his wife Helen Njeri, 26, with whom he had a three-year old daughter, Beatrice, Kinyua had only glowing tributes.

“After I had been so sick and I thought I was going to die, it is my wife and daughter who gave me the energy to want to live. It is not easy taking care of a sick person. I thank God for my family”.

Yesterday when notifying Helen about the intention to eulogise Kinyua in this special report, the young widow was overjoyed but saddened too.

“I wish he was here to read it. It is harder now that he is no more. I am alone with my child, it is difficult to even fathom how life is going to be without Kinyua,” she said.

Although Kinyua is honoured in this story posthumously, he becomes the face of a generation that faces challenges but is still determined to rise above debilitating afflictions. May he rest in peace.

Source: Mildred Ngesa, The Reporter,  Original Publication –The Nation (Nairobi)

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NIH to Fund New Research Study Regarding Exposure to Cigarette Smoke

Smoking Research Studies Exposure to Cigarette Smoke

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania recently received a $2.3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health for a new study focusing on the chemical changes that occur when the body is exposed to cigarette smoke.

SmokePrevious research has shown that chemical changes in the body can occur after exposure to cigarette smoke and that smoking and exposure to cigarette smoke is the environmental exposure responsible for causing more deaths than any other toxins.

The chemical elements found in cigarette smoke can cause certain types of cancer and have been associated with cardiovascular, pulmonary and pancreatic diseases.

Smokers, non-smokers and even individuals who are in regular contact with secondhand smoke will be screened for the presence of distinctive lipid and DNA biological indicators or chemicals and through additional discovery potential protein indicators in their blood, urine and breath.

These indicators, also known as biomarkers or biochemicals, will be utilized to determine the susceptibility of individuals to tobacco-related lung and cardiovascular problems after exposure to cigarette smoke. The results will hopefully provide reliable data for use in subsequent studies.

“Only one in ten smokers get lung cancer, but the five-year survival rate after diagnosis is only 15 percent,” says Trevor M. Penning, PhD, Director of The Center of Excellence in Environmental Toxicology (CEET). “The question is, how can we intervene earlier to identify people most at risk. We aim to look at the interaction of genetic susceptibility to lung cancer and biomarkers of exposure to cigarette smoke. At the end of the day, if we study genetics and exposure together, we’ll hopefully have a very strong statement to say who is most at risk.”

Source: Brenda Fulmer, Claris Law
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The Secret Smoker

He would, he says, never cheat on his wife.

But each time he smokes a Camel Light, it feels like an infidelity.

He promised to quit before they married.

He stubbed out his cigarette, washed his face with scented soap and for two months he abstained.

He said his wedding vows, toasted her with champagne and honeymooned at a resort, all without a cigarette.

Back in Charlotte, as he faced work again, he felt an irresistible urge to smoke.

Cigarette SmokerHe opened his desk drawer and there it was, a pack of Camel Lights he had hidden. He reached in. With more desire than regret, he got up and returned to his old haunt, an alcove behind his office where he knew he would find the other smokers standing around a terra cotta flowerpot.

The first couple of puffs tasted bitter the way he remembers his first cigarette in junior high.

Then a familiar heady adrenaline rush kicked in, and he was hooked all over again.

The Closet Smoker

He is The Closet Smoker, and that pack of Camel Lights in his desk is his dirty little secret.

You may know someone like him: an alcoholic perhaps, or a gambler or drug abuser. The pleasure they get from their addictions makes them do things they would not ordinarily do: indulge in risky behavior and lie about it.

The Closet Smoker knows better. In so many other ways he takes care of himself and the people around him. He lifts weights, takes a multivitamin and avoids fast food. He enjoys a good bottle of wine and an occasional sushi dinner out, but he’s not extravagant. If his car needs an oil change or tire rotation, he does it himself.

He’s not yet 40, a professional in Charlotte. His boss says she’s impressed by his savvy and creativity, and by the little things he does to help around the office, such as cleaning up the kitchen.

Most evenings, he cooks dinner for his wife. He phones his mother every day, or sends an instant message. Weekends, he might take his daughter golfing or to Carowinds. On Sundays, you’ll find him in church. His best friends know his secret. Everybody at work knows. But not the people who mean the most to him, his wife, his mother and his daughter.

He’s embarrassed to admit he lies to them. He says he wouldn’t lie for any other reason. He feels guilty, ashamed that he’s capable of deceiving the three most important people in his life for a cigarette. He worries what will happen if they find out.

They’re right, and he knows it. He shouldn’t smoke. It’s bad for him. He researched smoking for a science project in eighth grade and discovered that a few drops of nicotine in liquid form can kill you.

Years of smoking, he knows, might kill him, too.

The Nature of Cigarette Addiction

The Closet Smoker is sensible about most things. Yet his compulsion to smoke overpowers his common sense. That’s the nature of addiction.

It’s part of being human. Our brains are wired to reinforce behaviors we need to survive. Eating, drinking, sex. These behaviors stimulate pleasure circuits in the brain. Nicotine over-stimulates the circuits. It floods the brain with a neurotransmitter called dopamine that makes us feel good. Cocaine and heroin act in similar ways.

One reason nicotine and these other drugs are so addictive is they work on the same brain circuitry we use for survival.

Our brains become hijacked. We have to have more.

Scientists have turned to brain imaging to learn about addiction. They discovered that the decision-making part of an addict’s brain, the region that controls judgment, is no longer as effective. That could help explain why we become hooked on things when we know we shouldn’t.

  • Nicotine
  • Cocaine
  • Alcohol
  • Steroids
  • Gambling
  • Shoplifting
  • Caffeine
  • Sugar
  • Work
  • Sex

We’re all capable of addictive behavior.

Anything to look cool

The Closet Smoker’s initiation came in middle school. His older brother smoked, and The Closet Smoker occasionally sneaked one.

He wanted to like cigarettes. He wanted to look grown-up like his brother.

But what he remembers most from those early attempts is a burning sensation on the tip of his tongue and in his chest, followed by a fit of coughing.

He bought his first pack freshman year in high school. He was 15. State law then as now said no one under 18 could buy cigarettes, and for a while he bummed off older friends. Then he learned about a convenience store on the way to school where the clerk didn’t check IDs.

He asked for Marlboros. Everybody he knew smoked Marlboro’s, the cowboy’s brand, America’s favorite cigarette. He wanted to be like everybody. He paid for that first pack with money he earned bagging groceries at the Winn-Dixie.

He tucked the little red and white box in his backpack and headed off to school, a member of a new fraternity.

He ignored the taste. It was more important to him to be like everybody than to actually enjoy smoking. And it didn’t take too many cigarettes before the taste grew on him like the taste of another adult pleasure he had learned to like, black coffee.

He says most students smoked. The fortunes of their town, like so many towns in North Carolina, were built on tobacco. It was still the state’s biggest cash crop when he was in school, and even now brings in $400 million a year.

Of course, teenagers smoked.

Many of their parents did, too. The Closet Smoker’s dad smoked three packs a day for 30 years before giving it up.

High school students could smoke between classes, at recess and at lunch with a parent’s permission. The Closet Smoker’s parents didn’t approve, but he says he got so he could get in a smoke in 45 seconds and no one ever caught him.

He remembers the night of a basketball game, hanging out in the parking lot with friends, most of them sneaking beer, then one person asked if anyone had a cigarette and another person wanted one, too, and then another. He was the only one with a pack, and he passed it around.

That night, he was The Man.

Loved Ones Worry

His first wife, he says, hated his smoking. Before they married, he was up to a pack and a half a day. Thirty cigarettes every day.

He says she complained about the smell, and the taste when they kissed, and the stale odor of his clothes, and the butts in the flowerpot on the deck.

Most of all, he says, she hated what smoking might do to him: the heart disease and bronchitis, asthma, emphysema, lung cancer and other cancers.

Everyone knows smoking kills. Half of all Americans who smoke will die because of it, about 400,000 people every year, twice as many people as die from alcohol, drugs, fires, car accidents, homicide, suicide and AIDS combined.

Kids in preschool know smoking kills. Yet more than 46 million people in our country smoke. The Closet Smoker, like many addicts, assumes it won’t happen to him.

He Tried To Quit

He really did, he says, and once he almost succeeded.

He went without a cigarette for several months after college and he felt much better. He had more stamina. He no longer had that nagging smoker’s cough.

Then he took a job at a company where most employees smoked. They stopped working every day at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. for 15 minutes of smoking and socializing.

Within two weeks, he was in there with them.

He tried to hide his habit after his daughter was born, but when she was 4 she caught him.

He had sneaked out to the patio like a teenager. She went looking for him. She opened the door and there stood her father, a cigarette dangling between his lips.

Daddy, that’s nasty!

He felt ashamed. He snuffed out the butt between his fingers and flushed it down the toilet. But he didn’t quit. From that day on, he just made sure he never again smoked around her.

He doesn’t want his daughter to smoke.

His parents didn’t want him to.

His dad once offered him $1,000 if he would quit.

The Closet Smokers Deception

The Closet Smoker thinks he’s fooling his new wife.

He smokes his last cigarette at work around 4:30 most afternoons, then washes away the smell from his face with scented soap. He drives home, car windows open, chewing gum or sucking mints. He chews gum on weekends just so she won’t wonder why he’s always chewing gum when he gets home from work.

He doesn’t smoke in his car. He doesn’t smoke on Saturdays or Sundays. He sometimes smokes when he’s out to lunch, but mostly he confines his smoking to the alcove behind his office.

He and two co-workers knock on each other’s doors on their way out, four or five times a day, more on bad days. The Closet Smoker says he enjoys the socializing as much as the smoking. If he didn’t smoke, how could he justify taking so many breaks?

They stand in the alcove in 104-degree heat. They’re out there in freezing rain. They can’t be picky. Finding a place to smoke is not easy any more.

You certainly can’t smoke at school. In your office? Few businesses allow it. Even outdoors in many places, you’re a pariah; no one wants to breathe your secondhand smoke.

As bare and ugly as the alcove is, The Closet Smoker looks forward to being there every Monday morning.

What Happens Inside

Every Monday morning, after two days without nicotine, his first cigarette gives him a kick more powerful than any he’ll get all week.He balances the Camel Light between his lips, then cuffs his hands around his lighter. A flame shoots up. The tip of the cigarette burns. He inhales, drawing smoke deep inside. Particles of tar, the same stuff used to pave highways, carry the nicotine through his windpipe, then down his left and right bronchi and into his lungs.

He holds onto the smoke for a few seconds before exhaling.

The nicotine flows through small tubes in his lungs called bronchioles and into millions of tiny air sacs that puff up every time he inhales. From there, it enters his bloodstream.

It takes about eight seconds to reach his brain.

Before he can take another puff, he feels the effects of the first. The gratification is immediate and that’s one reason nicotine is so addictive.

He feels a lift of energy. His heart beats faster, his blood pressure rises. He is focused, more attentive. He feels ready to tackle work again.

What he doesn’t feel are the poisons circulating through his body:

Cyanide, benzene, formaldehyde, methanol and acetylene, ammonia, carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide, more than 4,000 chemicals in each cigarette, the same chemicals used to kill rats, make gasoline and nail polish, and embalm dead bodies.

The nicotine is what hooked him; it’s the chemicals in cigarettes that may kill him.

They’re the reason this summer he couldn’t swim underwater from one end of his apartment pool and back again without coming up for air.

He says his wife blamed his lack of stamina on years of smoking, not knowing he is still at it.

A Partial Confession

Since they married, he says she has confronted him a few times about the smell of cigarettes.

His heart beat faster, his blood pressure rose, but not in a pleasant way. He says he confessed. Sort of. He says he told her each time that, yes, he smoked that day. He didn’t tell her he smokes every day at work.

He says she hates the smell and the taste and, most of all, she hates what cigarettes might do to him. How could he promise to be with her forever, when he shortens forever by several minutes or more with every cigarette?

He says he had every intention of quitting. He’s had every intention of quitting every time he’s tried. Most smokers want to quit, but it usually takes several tries. The Closet Smoker says he has tried 15 to 20 times.

What the Secret Smokers Tells Himself

Maybe he can’t quit. So he gives himself permission, the way addicts do: “I firmly believe that a lot of lung cancer that’s smoking related is because people sit inside and continuously breathe in the smoke. I don’t smoke inside.”

He rationalizes, the way addicts do, that his smoking doesn’t affect his family because he doesn’t smoke in front of them.

But The Closet Smoker is a smart guy and when he hears what he’s just said, he knows it doesn’t make sense. “Now that I’ve said it out loud, I guess it’s a little short-sighted of me because I don’t see it as directly affecting them. Long-sighted, my health and my early demise will affect them.”

Most of all, he says, he hates deceiving the people he loves.

Smoking Kills, Yet We Light Up

One in 20 middle school students in North Carolina smokes cigarettes, according to the American Lung Association. By high school, one in five students in the state smokes, and the percentage grows slightly among adults. They smoke despite evidence that smoking is responsible for nearly one in five deaths in the United States. Consider these statistics from the CDC:

  1. Smoking causes 90 percent of lung cancer deaths in women, and nearly 80 percent in men, and many other types of cancer.
  2. If you smoke, you’re two to four times as likely to develop coronary heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States.
  3. Smoking doubles a person’s risk for stroke.

    Smokers in the Closet

    More than 46 million people in the United States smoke, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    No one knows how many are closet smokers. After news reports that ABC News anchor Peter Jennings, a former smoker, had lung cancer, New York magazine polled 100 smokers; one-third said they hid their habit from parents, bosses, children or spouses.

    Want to Quit Smoking?

    Call toll-free in North and South Carolina, 1-800-Quit-Now.

    American Lung Association’s “Quit Smoking Cessation Plan”

    Tobacco prevention in North Carolina

    Teens can get help at NCNot.com


    How We Reported the Story

    Elizabeth Leland interviewed Professor Steven Childers of Wake Forest University School of Medicine, who studies the effect of drug addiction on the brain, and Dr. Cindy Miner, a deputy director at the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Leland also researched addiction and nicotine through publications such as “Psychology Today” and on Web sites of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Stanford University, Harvard University and others. She read about the history and economics of tobacco, and got data from the N.C. Department of Agriculture and the American Cancer Society. She interviewed The Closet Smoker and his boss. He agreed to be the subject of a story on condition that she not reveal his identity.

    Source: Elizabeth Leland, Charlotte Observer