New risks for women smokers

Studies published in this week’s New England Journal of Medicine show that the risk of smoking in women has been previously significantly under-estimated.

According to study author Dr. Prabhat Jha of St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, “The group of women that started smoking seriously in and around 1960 can be followed up only now — fully five decades later — to understand what are the full consequences of smoking among women.”

The new analysis finds that female smokers are more than 26 times more likely to die of lung cancer than nonsmoking women — twice the rate calculated in the older studies from the 1980’s.

The risk of smoking is huge for everyone involved: “What we found in studying over 220,000 adult Americans is that smoking leads to the loss of about a decade of life,” Jha says. It also cuts in half the chance of living to age 80.

Fortunately, quitting smoking has a big payoff, also greater than previously estimated. A long-term smoker who quits before age 40 gains back nine out of the 10 years of life he or she had lost if they hadn’t stopped smoking.

So, it’s never too late to quit.

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