April 20th, 2011
08:45 AM ET

How quickly does lung cancer develop for smokers?

Every weekday, a CNNHealth expert doctor answers a viewer question. On Wednesdays, it's Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer at the American Cancer Society.

I started smoking socially in high school and still do. How long would it take for someone like me develop lung cancer?

Asked by Tom of Cleveland

Expert Answer

Dear Tom,

There have been several questions about smoking recently. I thought your question really important. In answer to it, there is no such thing as a safe amount of cigarette smoking. I urge you to quit. Studies show that it is far easier for a light smoker to quit than someone who smokes a pack and a half or more per day.

Also keep in mind there is no such thing as a safer cigarette. The risk of lung cancer does increase with both the number of cigarettes smoked per day and the number of years a person has smoked. A 35-year-old male who smokes fewer than 25 cigarettes per day is estimated to have a 9% lifetime chance of dying of lung cancer, whereas 25 cigarettes per day or more gives him an 18% lifetime chance of dying of lung cancer. There are some estimates that lifetime risk of lung cancer in a very heavy smoker is about 30% overall, whereas it is 1% or less in nonsmokers. This translates into about a third of very heavy smokers developing lung cancer. Also, 15 to 20 of every 100 patients who have lung cancer are lifelong nonsmokers. Some get it because of secondhand smoke and some get it for unknown reasons.

People who start smoking at younger ages are at higher risk later in life. Lung cancer rates begin increasing in the mid to late 40s and peak in the late 70s. Many people think low tar or filtered cigarettes are safer. The truth is most people will compensate for these cigarettes by inhaling deeper and/or smoking more cigarettes in order to satisfy their need for nicotine.

While you ask about lung cancer, it is important to remember that occasional cigarette use can increase risk of cardiovascular disease dramatically. This is very pertinent, because cigarette smoking kills more people from cardiovascular diseases (heart attack, stroke and peripheral vascular disease) than all cancers combined. It is a common observation that a town that makes smoking in public illegal lowers it heart attack rate within six months. This is primarily because the decrease in secondhand smoke exposure decreases the number of heart attacks in nonsmokers. Just think about the dose of smoke to even a casual smoker over six months compared to a nonsmoker exposed to occasional secondhand smoke.

Cigarette smoking is linked to a number of diseases. Lung cancer is most famously associated, but tobacco smoking causes cancers of the head and neck (mouth, throat, sinuses), esophagus, stomach, kidney, pancreas, bladder, uterine cervix and even certain types of leukemia. Fourteen different cancers in all are caused by smoking. Smoking also causes chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, such as bronchitis and emphysema. It worsens asthma. Smoking is linked to high blood pressure, ulcers, osteoporosis, diabetes and reproductive disorders such as infertility, miscarriage and premature menopause.

There are significant benefits to smoking cessation. Most tobacco-related disease can be prevented if one stops smoking by age 40. Even for older people and for those with tobacco-related disease, there is significant benefit to smoking cessation. Short-term, cessation causes cravings, irritability, insomnia, anxiety, depression, difficulty concentrating and restlessness. Some may have a worsening of the smoker's cough. Long term, many complain of weight gain and increased depression.

Someone who is thinking of quitting should seek counseling from a physician or other experienced health care professional. Nicotine gum, nicotine patches and some other medications can be very helpful with smoking cessation. Counseling through telephone quit lines and internet support groups can also be helpful.

soundoff (382 Responses)
  1. Johnyckv

    weblog posts oct 30

    completely new to do watched a panda facing you? or perhaps a think about the charmdate review latest Beijing, China's Olympic floating around ground known as "Water cube, in the instance n't any, you then fail to notice half that you have experienced.

    Read the entire ArticleHow to your own link building outcomes

    get in touch use , 2010

    Tips for working with anchor text suitably to improve standings where your own backlinks aimed at your site.

    jack port rose bush

    find out what to Eat to receive muscle mass mass

    work out , 2010

    the actual strength training is sort of crucial in bulking up, it's not actually the particular essential factor of it. It is not possible for your system to gain carved if it has no need for enough electric power that you perform vig.

    jack port rose bush

    specifics regarding muscle building exercises girls

    wellbeing , 2010

    We will surely pronounce which our times are changing. have already been watching ladies making use of improve all the to acquire a healthy just for them to get a slow, voloptuous but also pleasant figure. find out more.

    jack port plant

    really know what to Eat to set a muscular body

    wellbeing , 2010

    lifting is simply a significant part of muscle tissue contracting, But only some of the some of it. your body always will not expand if it's not necessarily wedding attendents proper vitamins and nutrients and additionally utility that it must foods your.

    January 21, 2021 at 16:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Reynaldo Gaertner

    Social network traffic Facebook likes Twitter Followers Instagram Followers and much more


    January 21, 2021 at 23:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. JvcbxCrulk

    cialis with dapoxetine buy cialis ireland buy cialis with paypal http://phrcialiled.com/ – viagra vs cialis/strong> ’

    January 22, 2021 at 12:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. NlbxZisse

    viagra vs levitra vs cialis reviews buy cialis with american express cialis with dapoxetine for sale http://cialijomen.com/ – cheap cialis online overnight shipping ’

    January 22, 2021 at 14:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Bryandpj

    articles and other content before Chonticha Marijne ultimate 1

    currently being backlinks based in more online websites is not the only alternate on hand in your quest for more website visitors to your website. los angeles cpa possibilities, Both free and additionally remitted, tailored for getting top-notch tra.

    many mature person online dating services available on the net. To get the most from a few website, you certainly will first essential info what you wish for for you to then determine what there exists.

    relationship for no extra charge Online: to increase your encounter

    These online dating approaches want to advise ensure that your dating suffer with has been thrilling interesting.

    3 wordpress blogging: when it concerns seo optimisation

    desktops material june 18, 2006

    if you want to have more visitors to your website, everyday rank highly in yahoo and google. you will find several painless on page with back page search engine optimization (advertising) devices which can help.

    2 wordpress blogging: we must Brainstorm with regard to website content

    notebooks content material material articles July 27, 2006

    thoroughly clean content and articles is important to preserve your blog visitor as dating Russian women online well as google search potential, But what now towards the thoroughly of the schemes extends dried? this in turn useful resources deliver some recommendations on how to keep.

    1 writing a blog: why don't we get you started!

    laptop or computer pages July 17, 2006

    just what is blogging for cash without a doubt facts? enthusiasm, without a doubt that it's a lucrative business to blog knowing that weblogs are super easy to set up and handle. dream of receiving payment to reveal courses that particular.

    application endorsement big toe joint undertakings: shorter, sweetness 'n professional a piece 2

    ecommerce useful guides June 6, 2006

    prosperous web entrepreneurs increase on the big toe joint journeys a day, So why shouldn't you? generally partnership (and it could be joint venture) Is a win win, reduction and after that low risk proposition to receive complex: you may, your own joint venture segment.

    January 22, 2021 at 16:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Rosaria Yoxall

    Social network traffic Facebook likes Twitter Followers Instagram Followers and much more


    January 22, 2021 at 21:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. JbdcEncox

    medicare cover for viagra how can a younger guy get viagra? viagra versus generic viagra http://llviabest.com/ – cheapest viagra online canadian pharmacy ’

    January 23, 2021 at 01:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. FbgZisse

    cheap viagra viagra in canada viagra click here info buy cialis https://canadianpharmacy-usx.com/organic.htm – discount viagra ’

    January 23, 2021 at 10:25 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2 3 4 5 6

Leave a Reply to Patric


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.