Want To Live 10 Years Longer?

Quitting smoking in middle age can add eleven years to a female lifespan

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) It’s no secret that smoking is bad for a person’s health. But what are the real risks? Keep reading for the exact odds of smoking-related health problems in over a million women.

A recent study followed 1.2 million women for 10 to 15 years to determine the long-term effects of smoking.

This research's findings show smoking can take 11 years off a woman’s life and increase the risk of death by threefold.

"Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW."

Sir Richard Peto, PhD, professor at the University of Oxford in the UK, investigated health perks for women who quit smoking.

Dr. Peto said, “Both in the UK and in the USA, women born around 1940 were the first generation in which many smoked substantial numbers of cigarettes throughout adult life.”

“Hence, only in the 21st century could we observe directly the full effects of prolonged smoking, and of prolonged cessation, on premature mortality among women.”

The data for this study came from the Million Women Study, which included 1.2 million women aged 50-65 from the UK and US. The women were recruited between 1996 and 2001, surveyed at the time of recruitment and then again 3 to 8 years later. Mortality rates for each woman were checked through January 1, 2011.

Survey questions were designed to gather information on each woman’s smoking habits. Answers to these questions determined how the women were categorized in groups. At the time of recruitment, 20 percent of women were current smokers, 28 percent ex-smokers and 52 percent were never-smokers.

Smokers at the start of the study were 2.76 times more likely than never-smokers to die within the 12 years of follow up despite 44 percent of those women quitting by the 8 year mark.

Those still smoking at the 3 year mark were three times more likely than never-smokers to die.

Women smoking less than 10 cigarettes per day were still twice as likely to die by the 12 year mark than never-smokers.

A total of 23 of the top 30 causes of death were higher in the smoking groups. For example, smokers were 21.4 times more likely to get lung cancer than never-smokers.

Ex-smokers who had quit between the ages of 25-34 were 1.05 times more likely and those between the ages of 35-44 were 1.20 times more likely than never-smokers to die by 2011.

The younger quitting group was 1.84 times more likely and the older quitting group was 3.34 times more likely to die from lung cancer.

Overall study results showed 53 percent of smokers and 22 percent of never-smokers died before reaching 80 years of age.

There was an 11 year lifespan difference between smokers and never-smokers.

Dr. Peto said, “[S]mokers who stop before reaching middle age will on average gain about an extra ten years of life.”

This study was published in October in The Lancet.

Funding support for this study came from Cancer Research UK, the Medical Research Council and the Health and Safety Executive.

No conflicts of interest were reported.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
October 29, 2012
Last Updated:
October 31, 2012