Let me be blunt. I hate smoking. There are several reasons for this aversion. One is acrid smell of smoke that really irritates my respiratory system. Secondly, that smoke seems to linger in everything – clothes, furniture, rugs – that it touches. But perhaps the biggest reason I hate smoking is that my mother smoked for about 50 years. She tried to quit a few times, but was never able to do so. And that long-term bad habit ended up causing her to develop chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in the mid-1990s. She died in 2007 from that disease, which had caused her to lose 80 percent of her lung capacity, and Alzheimer’s disease (which I believe was exacerbated by her COPD).
Now there’s new research that U.S. women who light up cigarettes regularly have a much greater risk of dying from lung cancer than they did decades ago. Among the reasons are that women started smoking much sooner and are smoking more. Women also now have the same risk of dying from smoking-related illness as men. Researchers note that the risk of lung cancer leveled off for men in the 1980s; however, the risk is still rising for women.
And if an increased threat of death isn’t enough to make middle-age women reconsider smoking, then there’s the threat of early menopause. As I noted in an earlier sharepost, several studies indicate that women who smoke or who breathe second-hand smoker regularly have a higher risk of going through early menopause, which can increase the risk of not only heart disease, but bone disease as well.
The new study is one of the most comprehensive in looking at long-term trends of smoking. This study also includes the first generation of American women who started smoking early in life and continued smoking for decades. The study looked at 217,000 Americans who participated in federal healthy surveys between 1997 and 2004.
The researchers noted that American women really didn’t start smoking in large numbers until World War II. However, they soon began to start smoking at an earlier age. They were not in early studies in the 1950s since the number of women who were dying from lung cancer was relatively low. “Neither sex had yet experienced the full effects of smoking from adolescence throughout adulthood,” the researchers wrote.
The researchers’ analysis found that there are more than 35 million smokers in the United States. This group is comprised of about 20 percent of the male population and 18 percent of the female population in the country. The risk of death from cigarette smoking continues to increase among women and the increased risks are now nearly identical for men and women, as compared with persons who have never smoked. For instance, female smokers experienced a 16.8 percent increase in deaths from lung cancer over a 50-year period; approximately half of these deaths occurred during the past 20 years. Furthermore, two-thirds of the deaths due to heart disease among smokers in recent cohorts were linked to smoking.
The researchers believe that several factors could have altered these health risks. First of all, women who began smoking during the 1950s or in the years after mirror men’s smoking patterns, which include starting the habit at an earlier age and smoking more heavily. Contemporary smokers have smoked filtered cigarettes that are made of a tobacco blend that may cause issues. Women also have more trouble quitting smoking, which translates into a longer period of smoking.
Those are good reasons to start seeking out smoking cessation programs. Talk to your doctor if you’re interested in quitting. Another good source of information is the American Lung Association’s website.
Primary Sources for This Sharepost:
Marchione, M. (2013). Women have caught up to men on lung cancer risk. Houston Chronicle.
Thun, M. J., et al. (2013). 50-year trends in smoking –related mortality in the United States. The New England Journal of Medicine.
Published On: January 27, 2013