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Interview with Interview with Dr. Jeffrey Allerton on Becoming Tobacco Free

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Medical Minute - 4:22

Steve Williams: We’re with Dr. Jeffrey Allerton of Penn State Hershey Cancer Institute in State College. Dr. Allerton, thanks for joining us today.

Dr. Allerton: Good morning. You’re very welcome; I’m happy to be here.

Steve Williams: Dr. Allerton, Mount Nittany Health is becoming tobacco free. Can you explain to me how this will affect the community?

Dr. Allerton: Yes, this is a very good opportunity for Mount Nittany Health and its physicians to show the community that they are very dedicated to not only providing state-of-the-art care for their community, but also by taking care of the community by showing them – leading by example – that certain things such as smoking are very bad for your health.

Steve Williams: How do tobacco products adversely affect your health?

Dr. Allerton: It’s amazing how much tobacco affects us that we don’t even realize. And let me just go over a few statistics with you, if I may. Overall, in the United States, tobacco is responsible for about one in five deaths or about 443,000 premature deaths each year. And that’s using not only cigarette smoking, but also other forms of smokeless tobacco. Smoking accounts for about 30 percent of all cancer deaths and 80 percent of all lung cancer deaths. Now, people usually associate smoking just with lung cancer, but smoking is also associated with cancers of the head and neck, the nasal cavity, the sinuses, the lip, the larynx, the esophagus, the pancreas, the cervix, a certain type of ovarian cancer, kidney cancer, bladder cancer, stomach cancer, cancers of the colon and rectum, and acute myeloid leukemia. And, even very recently, there’s some suggestive data – not 100 percent proving yet – but suggestive that smoking could be related to part of the pathogens of breast cancer.

Steve Williams: Let’s talk specifically about lung cancer, Dr. Allerton. How does smoking affect the development of lung cancer?

Dr. Allerton: Most cancers, and lung cancer in particular, is a combination of an interaction between genetics and the environment. Some people are born with mutations that predispose them to lung cancer, so it doesn’t really take much for them to tip over. One of the things that would tip them over are various environmental exposure, of which smoking and exposure to tobacco smoke are the leading cause. Now, it’s amazing when you look at it from a chemical perspective that a cigarette has over 3,000 different chemicals in it, of which, in the 600 range so far, had been identified as being carcinogenic. People just don’t know this kind of data. They don’t think about it. In addition, those people who choose not to smoke thinking that other forms of tobacco are safer, such as various smokeless tobacco products, don’t realize that it is the tobacco and the nicotine – not so much how it is utilized – that is really causing the cancer.

Steve Williams: Doctor, do you have any tips that could help listeners quit using tobacco products?

Dr. Allerton: Yes, Pennsylvania in general is really big on tobacco cessation programs. The United States in general has made a policy regarding allowing people access through their primary care physicians to various smoking cessation programs. There are various sites on the web. Mount Nittany Health – through its patient navigator program – also has resources available for patients. They can call in and get access to various materials to help stop smoking.

Steve Williams: And where can listeners get some of this information on the importance of being tobacco free?

Dr. Allerton: The Mount Nittany Health website actually has a good listing there of various resources. You can actually Google it on the internet general about tobacco cessation. And, if you call Mount Nittany Health and ask for Aileen Galley and her team, they will lead you in the right direction for smoking cessation programs.

Steve Williams: Dr. Jeff Allerton, Penn State Hershey Cancer Institute, State College, thanks for joining us today.

Dr. Allerton: You’re very welcome. Have a good day.

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