WEDNESDAY, Jan. 23 (HealthDay News) -- American women who smoke have a dramatically increased risk of death from lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) than they did 20 years ago.
Compared to women who never smoked, a female smoker's risk of death from lung cancer is almost 26 times higher now. In the 1980s it was about 13 times higher, and in the 1960s a female smoker's risk of death was only three times higher than a female nonsmoker's, according to new research.
This greater risk of death is likely because of women starting smoking earlier, smoking more each day and smoking for longer periods of time, said the study's lead author, Dr. Michael Thun, vice president emeritus at the American Cancer Society.
The risk of death for male smokers in the United States has increased less dramatically in recent years, and women and men now have comparable risks of death compared to nonsmokers. Male smokers face a 25 times higher risk of death from lung cancer than nonsmoking males. In the 1980s, that number was 24 times higher and in the 1960s, it was 12 times higher.
"These increases have been large enough to offset medical advances that have reduced the risk of death in the rest of the population," said Thun.
Deaths from smoking-related diseases have also risen in recent decades. The risk of dying from COPD, a group of respiratory diseases including emphysema, is 26 times higher for male smokers today and 22 times higher for women compared to those who never smoked.
The good news from the study, however, is that "quitting smoking at any age dramatically reduces mortality. And, smokers who quit by age 40 avoid almost all of the excess risk of death from lung cancer and COPD," said Thun.
Results of the study are published in the Jan. 24 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.
Thun said the new findings also show th
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