The Risk of Death From Smoking Now Nearly Identical for Men and Women
While the risk of death from lung cancer appears to have stabilized among men since the 1980s, it continues to rise among female smokers.
Researchers from multiple organizations, including the American Cancer Society (ACS), studied the smoking trends among men and women over the last 50 years and found that women’s smoking habits in that time have significantly increased their risk of dying from lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) when compared to the smoking histories of earlier generations of female smokers. The study, published in The New England Journal of Medicine,1 included the smoking histories of more than 2.2 million adults ages 55 and older.
As women began to smoke cigarettes at progressively younger ages and with the same regularity and as heavily as men—smoking prevalence for men peaked in the 1970s and in the 1980s for women—their risk of death became equivalent to men. The relative risks of death from lung cancer, COPD, stroke, and heart disease are now nearly identical for men and women smokers.
And while the risk of death from lung cancer appears to have stabilized among men since the 1980s, it continues to rise among female smokers. The study also found that women have a more difficult time quitting then men and, as a result, for both current and former female smokers the number of years of smoking has increased. The study also showed that quitting smoking at any age dramatically reduces the risk of death from all major smoking-related diseases and that quitting outright is much more effective than smoking fewer cigarettes. ■
1. Thun MJ, Carter BD, Feskanich D, et al: 50-year trends in smoking-related mortality in the United States. N Engl J Med 368:351-364, 2013.