Smokers who light up within 30 minutes of waking in the morning are at significantly increased risk of developing lung, head and neck cancers, a study conducted at Penn State University finds.

People who have their first cigarette of the day within half an hour of awaking have a 79 percent greater chance of developing lung cancer than those who waited at least an hour, as well as a 59 percent higher risk of cancers of the head and neck.

Joshua E. Muscat, PhD, and his colleagues at Penn State suggested that an earlier start time to smoking poses a risk because  it signals stronger nicotine dependence, meaning that "smokers who smoke soon after waking may require special efforts to make them aware of their increased risk and the need for smoking cessation therapies."

Those who had their first cigarette within 30 minutes to an hour of waking also had a significantly increased risk; they were 1.63 times more likely to develop smoking-related cancers than those who waited at least an hour.

The study controlled for the amount of cigarettes smoked throughout the day, and used regular, current smokers as participants.

"Because the risk was calculated among ever-smokers, the odds ratios were substantially lower than what is typically observed in studies that include never-smokers," the researchers noted.