Lung Cancer Substantially Reduced Within 5 Years Of Quitting Smoking

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A new study carried by researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee found that quitting smoking reduces the risk of lung cancer. After five years of quitting smoking, people can substantially decrease the risk of the disease. However, the study also warns that ex-smokers are at high risk of getting lung cancer than non-smokers.

Using data from the landmark Framingham Heart Study, which collects information on the health of residents in Framingham, Massachusetts, scientists looked at the blood pressure and cholesterol. High blood pressure and cholesterol are the main risks for cardiovascular disease and cancer.

The Framingham study asked people about smoking every 2-4 years, looking at how smoking decreased or increased over time. Researchers analyzed data from 8,907 participants over 25-34 years.

During this time, there were 284 cases of lung cancers. Almost 93% of the cases occurred in heavy smokers. The category of heavy smokers is defined as smoking a pack of cigarettes a day (or more) for over 21 years.

Heavy smokers that quit saw a 39% reduction of the risk of developing lung cancer after five years from quitting. The group of heavy smokers that quit was compared to the current smokers. Over the years, the risk continued to fall. The first author of the study, Hilary Tindle, says:

“If you smoke, now is a great time to quit.”

Tindle also added that the study is motivating for people that still smoke. She explains that “the fact that lung cancer risk drops relatively quickly after quitting smoking, compared to continuing smoking, gives new motivation.”

However, the researchers also explained that 4 out of 10 cancers could occur in heavy smokers, even 15 years after they quit. Ex-smokers have a risk three times higher of developing lung cancer (even 25 years later) compared to the ones that never smoked.

Senior author Matthew Freiberg explains that quitting smoking is important, but the risk of getting lung cancer is still high:

“While the importance of smoking cessation cannot be overstated, former heavy smokers need to realize that the risk of lung cancer remains elevated for decades after they smoke their last cigarette, underscoring the importance of lung cancer screening.”

More information on the published study can be found in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Rex Austin

Rex Austinwas born and raised in Thunder Bay Ontario on the shores of Lake Superior. Apart from running his own podcast (Ice Fishing And Other “Cool” Things), he spends his time canoeing and backpacking in Northern Ontario.. As a journalist Rex has published stories for Global News (Thunder Bay) we well as Buzz Feed and Joystiq. As a contributor to Great Lakes Ledger, Rex most covers science and health stories. Contact Rexhere