Although November is National Cancer Awareness Month—dedicated to informing on all types of cancer—there is particular emphasis on lung cancer via the Great American Smokeout, an annual event falling on the third Thursday in November. Smokers are encouraged to not only pledge to quit, but actually set a date–if not quit directly in honor of the event and in commiseration with those affected by tobacco.

But lung cancer isn’t just a threat to smokers and those who are frequently around second-hand smoke; it’s also a common danger to those who are occupationally exposed to asbestos, organic chemicals or mining. And there is a higher occurrence of cases with individuals with a family history of lung cancer.

Bladder cancer, oral cancer and pancreatic cancer are also directly related to lung cancer. Here are some additional facts:

• Bladder cancer is often diagnosed in those with a family history, who indulge in tobacco products and those who are occupationally exposed to dyes, rubber or leather.
• Oral cancer is more common in individuals with a family history or who are exposed to tobacco or alcohol in excess.
• Pancreatic cancer is more prevalent in those who are obese, over 50 years of age, have a family history of the cancer or use tobacco.

Did you know that smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in America? About 450,000 people die from tobacco- and smoke-related illness every year in the U.S. Quitting smoking is the single best step a person can take to quickly and definitely improve their health. This not only improves aesthetics and prevents disease, but it bolsters overall quality of life. There is an economic benefit as smokers are relieved of the increasing monthly cost of cigarettes. Plus, it minimizes the exposure of loved ones to second-hand smoke.

Although much of the efforts at helping people to discontinue smoking have been through scare tactics, we are coming to learn that the implementation of mindfulness techniques. such as posing the question to ourselves of “Why do I feel I must smoke?” have proven to be a more effective means of engaging the smoker in useful personal dialogue.The American Cancer Society offers a wealth of information about how to quit smoking and the benefits of quitting. Another helpful site to put you on the path to better health is the American Lung Association. For more information on cancer screenings, how you can quit smoking or help a loved one quit, please do not hesitate to contact my office.

– Richard A. Levine, MD FACP