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Movember highlights the importance of quitting smoking

The London Tobacco Alliance brings you up to speed with Movember and how quitting smoking will improve mental health and reduce the risk of cancer.

Movember, the global movement that raises funds and sparks awareness of men’s mental health, prostate cancer and testicular cancer is here.

In this blog, the London Tobacco Alliance takes a look at Movember, the figures surrounding men’s health and why Londoners can give themselves a fighting chance against mental health issues and cancer diagnosis by quitting smoking.


What is Movember?

Movember is a global movement created in 2003 with the objective of raising awareness of men’s mental health. The charity is best known for its work on suicide prevention, prostate cancer and testicular cancer. 

By working closely with other men’s health partners across the globe, Movember has funded 1,250 health projects and partnered with 20 health partners such as L’Oréal and Gillette. It continues to develop new research of prostate cancer and testicular cancer research, trials and treatments.  

Every November, men across the globe are invited to show their support for Movember by growing a moustache for the entire month. The purpose of this is to raise donatable funds for the charity and spark awareness of the issues surrounding men’s mental health, prostate cancer and testicular cancer. 

Movember mentions that an estimated 60 men take their own lives every hour around the globe, whereas they state further that 1 in 8 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime and testicular cancer is now the most common cancer among young men in the UK.


What effect does smoking have on mental health?

It’s widely known that stopping smoking improves physical health tenfold from the moment people quit. However, it’s a lesser-known fact that stopping smoking is scientifically proven to boost your mental health and well-being.

It’s a common misconception that smoking relieves stress and anxiety – allowing smokers to relax. When in fact, smoking is proven to increase anxiety levels and tension. 

The chemicals found in cigarettes, such as nicotine, interfere with certain chemicals in the brain. When smokers haven’t had a cigarette for a while, the craving for another one causes them to feel irritable and anxious.

So, when inhaling a cigarette, smokers feel a temporary sense of relief, thus associating their improved mood and outlook with smoking. However, it’s the negative effects of smoking that have caused feelings of anxiety to begin with. 

Alarmingly, people with mental health problems, including anxiety, depression or schizophrenia, have a much higher chance of smoking compared to others, tend to smoke more cigarettes and on average, die 10 to 20 years younger than those who don’t suffer from mental health issues. Smokers are also more likely than non-smokers to develop depression over time.

​​According to a Cochrane study published on No Smoking Day 2021, it can take six weeks to stop smoking to improve your mood and mental health. The report stated that reductions in anxiety and depression levels in those who quit smoking were at least as effective as taking anti-depressants.

The Cochrane study further stated that quitting for at least six weeks may improve mental well-being, by reducing anxiety, depression and stress – compared to people who continued to smoke.

The report coincides with figures from Public Health England (PHE) data, which noted smoking is not helping people’s mental health – studies have shown that smokers have poorer mental well-being than non-smokers and that the PHE / Office National Statistics data found smokers scored worse than the general population on every mental wellbeing indicator in 2019 and 2020.

For smokers, it’s important to recognise the triggers, such as mental health issues, that drive them to reach for a cigarette. More below.


Understanding your smoking triggers

There are many reasons why people reach for a cigarette. One of the common reasons for sparking up a cigarette is when people are experiencing mental health issues. 

When you’re craving nicotine, this creates feelings of stress within your body. The longer you go without a cigarette, the more irritable smokers tend to become.

However, despite the ‘mini rush’ smokers experience, it is clinically proven that smoking heightens feelings of stress. Quitting smoking will make you feel much calmer in the long run, as well as improve your general mood and quality of life.


What effect does smoking have on prostate cancer?

According to a 2018 report published by Austrian researchers, smoking could boost smokers’ likelihood of developing aggressive prostate cancer that metastasizes or spreads through the body to other areas.

The report goes on to state that prostate cancer patients who smoked were nearly twice as likely to die of their disease (89% higher risk) than non-smokers. In addition, the risk that their cancers would spread was 151% higher, and there was a 40% higher risk that their prostate-specific antigen levels would rise again after surgery, signalling cancer’s return. 

While there is there yet to be conclusive evidence published discerning the links smoking has on prostate cancer, smoking is the biggest cause of preventable death in the UK and claims the lives of 78,000 every year.


How does smoking affect the likelihood of developing testicular cancer?

Testicular cancer is 1 of the less common cancers and tends to mostly affect men between 15 and 49 years of age.

Typical symptoms of testicular cancer are a painless swelling or lump in 1 of the testicles, or any change in shape and/or texture of the testicles.

So, does smoking affect the likelihood of developing testicular cancer? Well, a report from the Research Unit Cancer Care in Toronto and Ontario stated that “that cigarette smoking exerts an adverse influence on testicular cancer risk that is not mitigated by smoking cessation and not altered by age at initiation.”

However, other scientific research states that four well-established risk factors are known to increase testis cancer risk. These include:

  • Cryptorchidism (an undescended testicle)
  • Family history
  • Personal history
  • Intratubular germ cell neoplasia (ITGCN)

Regardless, quitting smoking will significantly boost your physical health and well-being, as well as reduce your risk of developing other forms of cancers and diseases such as lung cancer, throat cancer and diabetes.


Need help quitting smoking?

It’s widely known that nicotine is an addictive substance found in cigarettes. Nicotine causes a powerful addiction in the brain and although relatively harmless when consumed, the debilitating illnesses and diseases caused by smoking originate from the thousands of other toxic chemicals in tobacco and cigarettes. 

Studies have shown that smokers are three times more likely to quit smoking with the right support. The best chance of stopping is with a combination of personalised support and stop smoking aids such as nicotine replacement, e-cigarettes, or medication.

NRT, or nicotine replacement therapy such as patches, sprays and gum, are great sources of nicotine and are scientifically proven to be extremely effective in helping a smoker to stop. 

For help to stop smoking, speak to your  Local Stop Smoking Service, GP or pharmacist, or call the Stop Smoking helpline for free on 0300 123 1044.

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