Risk of death for female smokers has soared over the years

Research published in today’s The New England Journal of Medicine shows that women who smoke in the present day face a much higher risk of dying from lung cancer and other diseases connected to smoking than they did decades ago in the 1960s.

This is because many are starting to light-up much younger and smoking more cigarettes than their ancestors did.  Another finding to emerge from the study may not be surprising when you consider the thousands of harmful chemicals in a single cigarette but on average, smokers (of either gender) are dying at least a decade earlier than non-smokers.

Researchers in the studies wanted to determine if smoking was still as lethal as it was during 1980s as cigarettes now contain less tar, many smokers have quit, and treatments for many smoking-related diseases have improved.

Part of the analysis comprised of a study led by Dr. Michael Thun of the American Cancer Society, who used seven population surveys to track the number of smoking related fatalities between three time periods: 1956 – 1965, 1982 – 1988 and 2000 – 2010. In total, 2.2 million men and women were assessed, just a small fraction however of the 1.3 billion estimated smokers around the globe.

During the 1960s it was established that smoking increased a woman’s chances of succumbing to lung cancer by 2.7 times. However, by 2000 to 2010, the risk had now skyrocketed 25-fold. It was determined that both current smokers of either sex today were almost equally more at risk than non-smokers of developing conditions such as COPD, heart disease, lung cancer and strokes, the research showed.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is similar in certain characteristics to asthma and therefore can be treated with the use of Ventolin Evohaler with symptoms including chronic cough, tightness in the chest, and excessive phlegm. Like asthma, it is often an underestimated condition and not taken seriously enough as a life-threatening health problem.  However this study showed that the risk of dying increased four times greater than it was for people who had never smoked in the 1960s, to 22.5 times.

Dr. Thun implies that an explanation for the rise in risk of dying from lung cancer among women smokers between 1960 and 2000 could be linked to tobacco manufacturers releasing milder ‘light’ products solely aimed at the female market. For example it was in the 1960s when tobacco giant Philip Morris introduced its Virginia Slims brand – the very first cigarette marketed just at women.

He says: “The steep increase in risk among female smokers has continued for decades after the serious health risks from smoking were well established, and despite the fact that women predominantly smoked cigarette brands marketed as lower in tar and nicotine. So not only did the use of cigarette brands marketed as ‘light’ and ‘mild’ fail to prevent a large increase in risk in women, it also may have exacerbated the increase in deaths from chronic obstructive lung disease in male smokers, since the diluted smoke from these cigarettes is inhaled more deeply into the lungs of smokers to maintain the accustomed absorption of nicotine.”

In the U.S. there are over 35 million smokers — about 20% of men and 18% of women. It was during the 1980s though when women began smoking in their masses – two decades later than when large smoking rates were witnessed for males. Smoking rates were particularly high during the ’60s, when around 1 in 3 adult women smoked.

Dr. Thun says that the data in his study shows that women who smoke have the same risk for death as men. “When women smoke like men, they die like men”, Thun explained.

Within the same journal were the findings of a study led by Dr. Prabhat Jha of the Center for Global Health Research in Toronto, who looked at data contained on 217,000 Americans over the age of 25 who had responded to federal health surveys between 1997 and 2004. It was observed that around 16,000 of these people had died many years later.

Dr. Jha and colleagues found that:

. Those who stopped smoking in their mid-30s to mid-40s managed to extend their lifespan by nine years. Those who quit from their mid-40s to mid-50s gained six years. Those quitting later than this period this but prior to age 65, gain about four years.

. Smokers aged 25 to 79 were around three times more likely to die as non-smoking counterparts in the same age group.

. Those who had never smoked are twice as more likely to reach the age of 80 than smokers.

Over one hundred thousand people in the UK die each year due to smoking. Smoking-related deaths are mainly due to cancers, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and heart disease. Smoking is a worldwide issue and not just one in the U.S. Cutting down on the number of cigarettes each day will only go so far to improving health, the best solution is to completely stop altogether. As these studies have highlighted, smoking increases the risk of developing a number of diseases which may not always be fatal, but can result in many years of unpleasant symptoms.

Quit smoking today with the help of the smoking cessation medication Champix. The Doctors at Medical Specialists can help you do this. Complete the simple 4 step online questionnaire, and if the online consultation is approved by one of our Doctors, they will write a prescription that will be dispensed by our in-house pharmacy team.

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