Quitting Before 40 Avoids Most Excess Smoking-Linked Mortality

Mortality rates nearly three times higher for smokers; quitting before age 30 most beneficial

MONDAY, Oct. 29 (HealthDay News) -- For U.K. women, the hazards of smoking and benefits of quitting are considerable, with women who quit before age 30 avoiding more than 97 percent of excess smoking-related mortality, according to a study published online Oct. 27 in The Lancet.

In an effort to examine the full effects of prolonged smoking, and prolonged cessation, on mortality, Kirstin Pirie, from the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, and colleagues conducted a prospective study involving 1.2 million U.K. women, recruited in 1996 to 2001, and resurveyed three and eight years later.

The researchers found that, for 12-year mortality, the mortality rate ratio for those smoking at baseline was 2.76, compared with never-smokers. Those still smoking at the three-year resurvey had a three-fold increased risk of mortality, largely irrespective of age (rate ratio, 2.97). Twenty-three of the 30 most common causes of death were significantly elevated in smokers, with a rate ratio of 21.4 for lung cancer. Compared with never-smokers, the excess mortality for smokers was mainly from smoking-related disease, such as lung cancer. For ex-smokers who stopped at age 25 to 34, the relative risks for all-cause and lung-cancer mortality were 1.05 (95 percent confidence interval, 1.00 to 1.11) and 1.84, respectively, and for those who stopped at age 35 to 44, the risks were 1.20 and 3.34, respectively. Data suggest that 53 percent of smokers and 22 percent of never-smokers die before age 80 years, with an 11-year difference in life span.

"Although the hazards of smoking until age 40 years and then stopping are substantial, the hazards of continuing are 10 times greater," the authors write. "Stopping before age 40 years (and preferably well before age 40 years) avoids more than 90 percent of the excess mortality caused by continuing smoking; stopping before age 30 years avoids more than 97 percent of it."

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