As the month of October winds down, there are so many observances for the month that need to be mentioned.
One of the most widely observed health campaigns for October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The campaign was founded in 1985 with the goal of promoting “mammography as the most effective weapon in the fight against breast cancer.” Breast cancer, which is the second most common cancer in women, was once a disease that was talked about in whispers. Now women are sharing their stories, as well as organizing events, such as walks to “raise funds for research into its cause, prevention, diagnosis, treatment and cure.” Breast cancer can strike a woman, and even some men, at any age. While some breast cancers have no known cause, genetic factors, such as a BRCA gene mutation may play a part in some while others may be due to environmental factors such as smoking. When researchers conducted a cohort study of women, they found smokers had an increased risk of breast cancer compared to nonsmokers, especially those who started smoking at an earlier age.
Survival rates of breast cancer have improved over the years due to early detection through breast self-exams and mammograms, which is key. New guidelines have come out this past month regarding when a woman should start having mammograms. Talk to your doctor about what is best for you.
Did you know it was Adopt a Dog Month? If you aren’t a dog person, no problem because October 29th is National Cat Day. So what do these four-legged furry critters have to do with tobacco? If you have a cat or dog and expose them to secondhand smoke, they are facing respiratory health problems, allergies and even cancers. In fact, “the ASPCA, one of the largest animal rights groups in the U.S., lists tobacco smoke as a toxin that is dangerous to pets.” And it’s not just secondhand smoke that is dangerous, third-hand smoke is particularly toxic to them as well. Third-hand smoke is the invisible toxic gases that clings to clothing, interiors of cars, carpeting and furniture, as well as your pet’s toys. When your pet grooms him- or herself, they are ingesting those toxins. Cats living with a smoker are found to have nicotine and other toxins in their urine and are “twice as likely to develop malignant lymphoma.” Long-nosed dogs living with smokers are found to have “a higher incidence of nasal tumors and cancer of the sinus.” Those short-nosed dogs, like boxers, have higher lung cancer rates. So protect your fur babies by either quitting or taking your smoking outside and away from them. And remember, even if you smoke outside, your pet will still smell the smoke on your clothing.
World Psoriasis Day is also October 29th and they hope to bring awareness to this condition that affects two to three percent of the world’s population, or more than 125 million people. Psoriasis is a chronic, inflammatory disorder that primarily involves the skin, and is more common than many people think. While some have silvery, scaling plaques involving the skin, others may also have inflammatory polyarthritis or psoriatic arthritis. Both “psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis cause major physical, functional and psychosocial disability.” Smokers have a much higher risk for psoriasis, which can “about double a person’s risk of acquiring psoriasis.” The more you smoke, the more the risk increases. Smoking also decreases the effectiveness of treatment as the nicotine affects the immune system and skin cell growth. Bottom line, “if you do smoke, consider stopping – you may have a higher likelihood of remission.”
September was National Menopause Month, but October is World Menopause Month and another chance to find information. And while there are thousands of jokes regarding this subject, it’s no laughing matter to those who are going through it. During menopause women experience a change in hormone levels, specifically a decrease in the production of estrogen. This decrease can effect many parts of the body including bone density. Women who smoke have been been found to have a higher risk of developing osteoporosis and their bone loss is more rapid, doubling the risk of having a fracture. Cigarette smoking has also been linked to earlier menopause and more hot flashes. But there is hope for those who quit. A study found that “after one year without smoking, a group of postmenopausal women had improved bone density, compared with women who continued smoking.
So many more observances for this month, and so little time to share them all.