Published On: Mon, Jan 28th, 2013

Study Finds Health Risks of Smoking Same for Men and Women

Study Finds Health Risks of Smoking Same for Men and WomenMaintaining a smoking habit means placing your long-term health at serious risk regardless if you’re a male or female, according to a recent study published in The New England Journal of Medicine. According to the findings of the study, women who smoke have just as high a risk of dying from lung cancer and other disease linked to smoking as men. Smokers of both sexes will live 10 years less, on average, than nonsmokers.

Researchers involved in the study stated that these results serve as a stark reminder of how cigarette smoking remains as one of the leading causes of deaths in the U.S. However, despite the consequences, smoking remains a daily habit for millions of Americans.

Study Results

Led by researchers from the American Cancer Society the study tracked smoking deaths over three separate time periods during the last 50 years. The data confirmed that women who smoke face the same risk as men of dying from a smoking-related illness. The study examined the deaths of over 2.2 million adults ages 55 and over.

In the U.S., the majority of women didn’t start smoking socially until the 1960s, roughly 20 years after the majority of men took up the habit. As a result, researchers hadn’t previously been able to establish whether the long-term smoking consequence for women were the same as for men. Smoking rates for women reached their highest during the late 1960s, when one out of three women smoked, according to date from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.

No so coincidentally, this time period marked the same time when Philip Morris introduced Virginia Slims to the market, a brand marketed expressly to women.

Results from the study found that women smokers were 23 times more likely to die of lung cancer between 1960 and 2000.

When tracking the long-term effects of any epidemic, it take roughly 50 years before enough data has accumulated to make any kind of definitive assessment, according to researchers.

The Importance of Quitting Early

When examining the data, researchers determined that individuals who smoke well into their 40s and 50s lose roughly a decade off of their life. However, when smokers quit prior to the age of 40, they can successfully regain most of those lost years.

By examining data on roughly 200,000 men and women over 25 that participated during the study between 1997 and 2004, researchers found that about 16,000 had died a few years later.

Researchers also found that:

  • Smokers who quit between their mid-30s to mid-40s regained roughly nine years of life, while those who quit between their mid-50s to mid-60s gained about six. Smokers who quit over the age of 65 can still regain about four more years of their life.
  • Smokers between the ages of 25 to 79 were three times more likely to die when compared to non-smokers of the same age.
  • Individuals who never smoke are twice as likely to live into their 80s versus smokers.

Clearly the evidence shows that quitting now always makes more sense than later. If you smoke, talk with your doctor about finding the quitting solution that’s right for you.

Timothy Lemke is a freelance writer. To read more of his work, visit the website of Dr. Howard Jarvis, a SW Portland dentist. 

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