No Time Like the Present to Stop Smoking

M.A., Health Writer

If you used to smoke heavily and quit — great — but you're still at risk for lung cancer decades after that final puff.  Cancer risk is three times higher for smokers even after 25 years since quitting than "never smokers." However, risk decreases significantly within five years of quitting, compared to continuing the habit. So says new research from Vanderbilt University Medical Center, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Researchers analyzed data from the famous Framingham Heart Study that pinpointed high blood pressure and high cholesterol as major risks for cardiovascular disease — information repeated thousands of times a day in doctors' offices now. The new research considered 8,907 participants followed for 25 to 34 years. It found 284 lung cancers diagnosed, with more than 90 percent among heavy smokers. Additionally, four of 10 lung cancers occurred in former smokers more than 15 years since they quit.

The main message if you were a smoker: Be vigilant about lung cancer screening.

Sourced from: Journal of the National Cancer Institute