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According to the American Cancer Society, lung cancer remains the most lethal of all cancers causing 1 out of every 3 cancer related deaths in men (31%) and 1 out of every 4 cancer related deaths in women (27%). Out of all deaths which take place because of lung cancer, 80% can be directly attributed to cigarette smoking.

The risk of death due to lung cancer because of smoking is dependent on the following factors:

  • Age at which the patient first started to smoke
  • The duration for which he has been smoking
  • The number of cigarettes smoked
  • How deeply was the cigarette smoke inhaled

Your best chance against developing lung cancer is not smoking or getting exposed to second hand smoke. However, even if you have been a smoker, giving it up can improve your odds. According to the statistics provided by the American Cancer Society, current smokers run 10% to 15% increased risk of developing lung cancer compared to non-smokers. However, for a person who has quitted smoking, the risk of developing lung cancer falls with every smoke free year that he completes.

A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association has found that within 5 years of quitting smoking, the risk of death due to lung cancer falls by around 21%. Within 10 years of kicking the butt, this risk falls by 30% to 50%. However, the excess risk takes almost three decades to disappear completely.

The risk of developing lung cancer after quitting smoking is as follows:

  • For a non-smoker, there is 0.5% risk of developing lung cancer by the age of 75.
  • If a person started smoking in his teenage years but gave up by the time he was in his 30s, he has 1.8% chance of developing lung cancer when he is 75 years old. The inflammatory and genetic changes that have taken place because of smoking gradually reduce over time.
  • If a person has started smoking in his teens and gives it up in his 40s, he has a 3% increased risk of developing lung cancer by the age of 75. This is because smoking for these many years leads to changes associated with chronic obstructive lung disease, chronic bronchitis and emphysema. The lungs capacity as well as function is reduced and recovery takes longer.
  • Giving up smoking in the 50s by a person who started smoking in his teens leads to a 6% increase in his risk of developing lung cancer by the time he reaches 75. This is because of some permanent irreparable damages to the lungs.
  • If you had started smoking in your teens and give up smoking in your 60s, you have a 10% increased risk of developing lung cancer by the time you are 75 years of age. However, it is still better than not giving up smoking at all. It not only reduced the chances of developing lung cancer but also reduces the risk of becoming severely disabled because of significant lung damage.

Apart from reducing the risk of developing lung cancer, giving up smoking also has a significant impact on other smoking related diseases. Risk of heart disease declines rapidly within 5 years of quitting and becomes equal to a non-smoker within 20 years. There is a 13% decrease in risk of death from all causes, 47% decrease in death due to heart diseases and 27% decrease in death from stroke within 5 years of giving up smoking. In smokers who have been successfully treated for lung cancer, the risk of developing new lung cancers decreases significantly if the patient quits smoking.

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