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Smokers Double Their Risk for Heart Disease

Study finds that quitting improves heart prospects, but cancer risk remains

TUESDAY, Nov. 24 (HealthDay News) -- A new study offers yet more proof that smoking is a major risk factor for death from heart disease and cancer.

Researchers followed 12,152 American and European male and female smokers, formers smokers and nonsmokers for three years. During that time, current smokers were 4.16 times more likely to die of cancer, 2.26 times more likely to die of heart disease and 2.58 times more likely to die from any cause than were former or nonsmokers. Current smokers were also more likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke.

There were no significant differences between former smokers and nonsmokers in the risk for dying from heart disease or any cause, but former smokers were more likely to die of cancer than those who'd never smoked.

"The analysis provides further strong evidence that people with heart disease who continue to smoke take a very high risk of increasing their chances of death in the short term," principal investigator Dr. Deepak L. Bhatt, chief of cardiology at the Veterans Affairs Boston Healthcare System, said in a news release from the American Heart Association.

"This study provides impetus for a smoker to stop," he said. "The benefits of risk reduction accrue relatively quickly when someone stops smoking, although the lingering cancer risk is still there."

The study was published online Nov. 23 in Circulation.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about the health effects of smoking.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: American Heart Association, news release, Nov. 23, 2009

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