Women quit smoking before 40 can add ten years to life

3:52 PM, Oct 31, 2012   |    comments
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WASHINGTON, D.C. (WUSA) --  It's NOT too late to quit. A new study involving a million women finds that women who give up smoking between the age of 40 can add ten more years to their lives.

The largest study in the history of studying dangers of smoking shows that women in the U.K. lose ten years of their life if they are smokers, but stopping before the age of 40 avoids over 90 percent of the increased risk of dying. Stopping before age 30 avoids 97 percent of this risk.

These figures represent bigger benefits to quitting smoking than any previous study has ever found.  The study also celebrates the 100th anniversary of the birth of scientist Sir Richard Doll, one of the first individuals to connect associate smoking with lung cancer, and the 50th anniversary of the Royal College of Physicians' groundbreaking report Smoking and Health.

As a part of the Million Women Study, 1.3 million women were gathered between 1996 and 2001, and answered questions about their lifestyle, health and social lives. Twenty percent of the women were smokers, 28 percent had quit smoking and 52 percent of the women had never smoked. The women were questioned again three years later, and continued on average for a period of 12 years. The researchers were informed if any of the participants died, and were told the cause of death. So far, 66,000 patients have since died.

At the first resurvey mark, women smokers were almost three times more likely to die than non-smokers for the remaining years of the study, and some women did stop smoking during this period. These results show that two-thirds of all deaths of smokers in their 50s, 60s and 70s are caused by smoking. As compared to non-smokers, people who smoked die from smoking-related illnesses like lung cancer, heart disease, stroke or chronic lung disease.

"That we had to wait until the 21st century to observe the full consequences in women of a habit that was already widespread in the mid-20th century, when tobacco smoking pervaded much of the developed world, might seem paradoxical. But this is because, in most of Europe and the USA, the popularity of smoking among young women reached its peak in the 1960s, decades later than for men. Hence, previous studies have underestimated the full eventual impact of smoking on mortality in women, simply because of the lengthy time lag between smoking uptake by young women and disease onset in middle and old age," says Dr. Rachel Huxley, an epidemiologist at the University of Minnesota, in a linked comment.

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