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For Immediate Release: November 13, 2012
Contact: AICR Communications Department, communications@aicr.org, 202-328-7744

After the Smokeout: Cancer Experts Offer Tips to Avoid Weight Gain After Kicking the Habit

Broken CigaretteWASHINGTON, DC — If you’re a smoker, quitting is the single most important thing you can do to cut your cancer risk, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR). As AICR urges smokers to join Thursday’s Great American Smokeout, experts warn that many people who quit smoking replace that oral habit with frequent snacking, which often leads to weight gain. And that’s a problem.

AICR’s expert report and its Continuous Update Project (CUP) have concluded that carrying excess body fat increases risk for cancers of the colorectum, esophagus, endometrium, breast (post-menopause), kidney, pancreas and gallbladder.

“Quitting smoking isn’t easy, but the short-term and long-term health benefits that result from it are worth it,” noted AICR’s Alice Bender, MS, RD.  “That’s why it’s so important for people who’ve accomplished that difficult task to know that they don’t have to gain weight – and increase their cancer risk – if they keep in mind four simple tips.”

1.  Rethink the Snack

If you were a smoker, your tastebuds grew desensitized, which likely caused you to favor very salty, spicy and sugary snacks. Now that you find yourself without the oral stimulation of smoking, you may also find yourself turning to these foods more often than before. AICR's Bender suggests substituting healthy, cancer-protective foods instead.

  • Grab a fruit to replace your sweet cravings: Carry an apple or banana in your purse or briefcase.
  • Pair vegetables with flavorful dips like a spicy hummus or zingy salsa.
  • Snack on air-popped popcorn and spice it up with garlic or onion powder, cinammon or cumin.
  • Keep easy access to shelled nuts, such as walnuts, pistachios and pecans. Cracking nuts and extracting the edible portions keeps your hands busy and helps limit this healthy but high-calorie food.

According to AICR’s Bender, “These healthier snack options will give your taste buds a chance to recover and provide you with a new habit that helps you stay at a healthy weight."  Because taste buds and olfactory cells are so resilient, most people fully recover their senses of taste and smell within a few months. 

Visit AICR's Foods That Fight Cancer™ for for more healthy ideas.

2.  Cut Back on Booze

Alcohol, which often goes hand-in-hand with smoking, is in and of itself increases risk for several cancers. If you're quitting smoking, limiting alcohol or not drinking it at all may be a good idea.

Drinking alcoholic beverages may weaken your resolve and encourage you to overeat. Keep extra weight at bay by choosing water, tea, coffee and sugarless nonalcoholic drinks.

3.  Get Up and Move

If stress makes you want to grab a cigarette, or if not smoking lessens your energy, go for a brisk walk to get your blood circulating and your lungs pumping so you get an energy boost. Following AICR's advice to get at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity every day lowers your cancer risk while making you feel better immediately.

4.  Keep It Up

Scientists estimate that approximately 1/3 of most common cancers could be prevented if we all made healthy changes to the food we eat, increased our physical activity and maintained a healthy body weight. Add not smoking to the mix, and that number goes up even more.

You can find a host of AICR's tools, information and other resources to help you at www.aicr.org.



The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is the cancer charity that fosters research on the relationship of nutrition, physical activity and weight management to cancer risk, interprets the scientific literature and educates the public about the results. It has contributed more than $95 million for innovative research conducted at universities, hospitals and research centers across the country. AICR has published two landmark reports that interpret the accumulated research in the field, and is committed to a process of continuous review. AICR also provides a wide range of educational programs to help millions of Americans learn to make dietary changes for lower cancer risk. Its award-winning New American Plate program is presented in brochures, seminars and on its website, www.aicr.org. AICR is a member of the World Cancer Research Fund International.

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