x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Quit smoking: Abu Dhabi steps up fight against lung cancer

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths among local men, but it is also highly preventable.

Abu Dhabi // Smokers are being warned of the dangers of lung cancer as part of efforts to urge residents to kick the habit.

Nearly nine out of 10 lung cancers are caused by tobacco and second-hand smoke increases your risk of the disease by between 20 and 30 per cent, according to the Health Authority Abu Dhabi.

But smoking, be it cigarettes, shisha or medwakh pipes, is a common habit across the country.

Yassin Haji was 26 when he first tried apple-flavoured shisha with friends after a long day at work and was soon hooked.

“I was so tired, so I just took a quick puff and that’s it, it just started. Whenever you have a stressful day you just need to inhale,” said Mr Haji, a 37-year-old Briton who lives in Abu Dhabi.

He said he was aware of the dangers of smoking so now only used a shisha pipe once every two days.

“I’m cutting it down, so it’s OK,” he said.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths among men in Abu Dhabi and the sixth most common cancer among women.

The health authority’s campaign to raise awareness of the disease comes as part of lung cancer awareness month this month.

The initiative, Breathe Life, is also part of the authority’s six-month Live Healthy and Simply Check cancer-awareness drive.

Smokers and non-smokers are being warned of the risks of tobacco and second-hand smoke.

“The best way to prevent lung cancer is to never smoke,” said Dr Jalaa Taher, manager of the non-communicable disease department at the authority’s public health and research division. “It is a highly fatal disease.”

Smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer but many factors can increase your risk, including pollution, occupational hazards, aging, illness, genetics and exposure to radiation.

Last year, 53 cases of lung cancer were reported in Abu Dhabi – 81 per cent of them men and 26 per cent Emiratis. Eighty-four per cent were over the age of 50. The same year, 48 people with the disease died in the capital.

But lung cancer is also preventable.

“Smokers can still reduce their risk of lung cancer by as much as 30 to 50 per cent, 10 years after they quit smoking,” Dr Taher said.

The health benefits of quitting are evident within days. Breathing becomes easier and energy levels increase after 72 hours.

After one month, blood circulation improves, leading to healthier looking skin. After one year, the risk of a heart attack drops to about half that of a smoker. After 10 years, the risk of getting lung cancer has decreased by 50 per cent.

“It is very unfortunate that many people continue to die of lung cancer on an yearly basis despite the fact that the main cause is known,” said Dr Omniyat Al Hajeri, director of public health and research at the health authority.

“Our ongoing cancer awareness campaign provides an effective platform for informing the public about the dangers of smoking.”

rpennington@thenational.ae