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Smoking and Tobacco

Lung cancer and smoking

12/07/2000

Question:

I am 32 years old and I have smoked cigarettes since I was about 16. I have recently stopped smoking and would like to know if it is still possible that I may get lung cancer from all those years of smoking. I have been told that the lungs repair themselves rather quickly, but was just wondering as I stated earlier, is it still possible to get lung cancer even if I am not smoking?

Answer:

That`s great that you have quit smoking after 16 years. Your will begin to experience benefits of smoking cessation - such as living longer than those who continue to smoke. The specific risk of lung cancer death is 22 times higher in men smokers and 12 times higher in women smokers compared to never smokers. Risk of lung cancer decreases steadily in persons who quit smoking. After 10 years of not smoking, the risk of lung cancer is about 30-50% of the risk for those continuing to smoke. Risks of other cancers is also reduced including cancers of the voice box, mouth, esophagus and urinary bladder. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States and smokers have twice the risk of dying from heart disease compared to nonsmokers. After only one year of not smoking, an ex-smoker reduces risk of heart disease death by about 1/2 and this continues to decrease. In addition, after quitting smoking, the risk of death from stroke (the third leading cause of death in the U.S.)returns to that of a nonsmoker by as early as 5 years. Also reduced are risks for stomach ulcers, blocking of arteries in the legs, and pneumonia. (See The Health Benefits of Smoking Cessation by the Surgeon General in 1990). Beyond these important health concerns, exsmokers report the positive benefit of feeling more in control rather than cigarettes controlling them. Review all these benefits and stay smoke-free.

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Response by:

Karen L Ahijevych, PhD, RN, FAAN Karen L Ahijevych, PhD, RN, FAAN
Professor, College of Nursing
Professor, College of Public Health
College of Nursing
The Ohio State University