A smoker lights a cigarette
New studies finds that smokers who had a cigarette within the first 30 minutes of waking up were 80 percent more likely to develop lung cancer compared to those who wait between 30 and 60 minutes of waking up, who have a 30 percent increased risk. REUTERS

Cigarette smokers who light up first thing in the morning may have a higher chance of developing lung, head and neck cancers than those who wait until later in the day to take their first puff.

Smokers who light their first cigarette within a half-hour of waking up - defined as early morning smoking - are 59 percent more likely to develop head and neck cancers and have a 79 percent elevated risk for lung cancer compared to those who wait at least an hour, according to new research published in the journal Cancer. The study analysis included 4,775 lung cancer cases and 2,835 control subjects as well as 1,055 head and neck cancer cases and 795 controls, all of whom were regular cigarette smokers.

The aim of the study was to determine why only certain smokers develop cancer, even though it is now universally acknowledged that long-time smokers in general have a dramatically higher risk for cancer than non-smokers. Dr. Joshua Muscat, a professor at Pennsylvania State College of Medicine and lead author of the study, said the findings indicate that individuals who need to smoke directly after waking up may have higher levels of nicotine and other toxins in their system.

"These smokers have higher levels of nicotine and possibly other tobacco toxins in their body, and they may be more addicted than smokers who refrain from smoking for a half hour or more," Muscat said in a press release, adding that a combination of genetic and personal factors may also lead to a greater nicotine dependence.

Muscat said early morning smokers may benefit from targeted smoking cessation programs to lower their cancer risk.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that cigarettes are responsible for approximately 443,000 U.S. deaths each year. In addition to lung, head and neck cancer, the agency said smoking can also lead to bladder, kidney and stomach cancers.