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 (1,948 Responses)
  1. chinese buffet near me

    Oh my goodness! Amazing article dude! Thank you, However I am going through difficulties with your RSS. I donít understand the reason why I can't join it. Is there anybody getting the same RSS problems? Anyone who knows the answer can you kindly respond? Thanks!!


    June 14, 2021 at 08:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. bubble tea near me


    June 14, 2021 at 08:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. church near me


    June 14, 2021 at 08:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. whole foods near me

    Hello there! This article could not be written any better! Looking at this article reminds me of my previous roommate! He constantly kept talking about this. I most certainly will forward this information to him. Fairly certain he will have a very good read. Thanks for sharing!


    June 14, 2021 at 08:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. MileSwa

    viagra cialis cialis 200 mg. cialis 200 mg.

    June 14, 2021 at 09:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. houses for rent near me


    June 14, 2021 at 09:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. clinic near me

    I must thank you for the efforts you have put in writing this site. I'm hoping to see the same high-grade blog posts by you in the future as well. In truth, your creative writing abilities has motivated me to get my own website now 😉


    June 14, 2021 at 11:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. regions bank near me

    I have to thank you for the efforts you've put in writing this blog. I am hoping to check out the same high-grade blog posts by you later on as well. In truth, your creative writing abilities has inspired me to get my very own blog now 😉


    June 14, 2021 at 12:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. food near me open

    I like it when people come together and share ideas. Great blog, keep it up!


    June 14, 2021 at 12:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. drugstore near me


    June 14, 2021 at 13:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. post office near me


    June 14, 2021 at 13:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. dmv near me

    Hello! I could have sworn Iíve visited this web site before but after going through a few of the articles I realized itís new to me. Nonetheless, Iím certainly delighted I found it and Iíll be book-marking it and checking back frequently!


    June 14, 2021 at 13:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. catering near me


    June 14, 2021 at 13:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. movie theater near me


    June 14, 2021 at 15:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. wells fargo bank near me

    Everything is very open with a very clear explanation of the challenges. It was truly informative. Your website is very helpful. Many thanks for sharing!


    June 14, 2021 at 15:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. at&t store near me


    June 14, 2021 at 15:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. ballot drop box near me


    June 14, 2021 at 16:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. pawn shop near me

    Hey there! I just wish to give you a big thumbs up for the great information you have here on this post. I will be returning to your website for more soon.


    June 14, 2021 at 17:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. grocery store near me

    After looking over a number of the blog posts on your blog, I honestly appreciate your way of writing a blog. I bookmarked it to my bookmark webpage list and will be checking back soon. Please check out my web site too and tell me how you feel.


    June 14, 2021 at 18:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. pizza near me

    This website truly has all of the information I needed concerning this subject and didnít know who to ask.


    June 14, 2021 at 18:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. used car dealerships near me

    I blog quite often and I really thank you for your information. Your article has really peaked my interest. I'm going to bookmark your website and keep checking for new information about once a week. I opted in for your RSS feed as well.


    June 14, 2021 at 19:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. home goods near me

    Howdy! This post could not be written any better! Reading through this post reminds me of my previous roommate! He constantly kept talking about this. I will send this post to him. Pretty sure he'll have a very good read. Many thanks for sharing!


    June 14, 2021 at 19:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. waterfalls near me

    Nice post. I learn something new and challenging on websites I stumbleupon on a daily basis. It will always be helpful to read through articles from other authors and practice something from their websites.


    June 14, 2021 at 19:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Camper Repair Shops Near Me


    June 14, 2021 at 20:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. RV Repair Garden Grove


    June 14, 2021 at 21:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. RV Repair Shop Near My Location

    Way cool! Some very valid points! I appreciate you penning this post plus the rest of the website is also really good.


    June 14, 2021 at 21:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. RV Repair Garden Grove

    There's certainly a great deal to find out about this subject. I like all of the points you've made.


    June 15, 2021 at 01:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. RV Repair

    I was able to find good information from your content.


    June 15, 2021 at 01:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Sprinter Repair Shops Near Me

    After checking out a few of the blog articles on your web page, I truly appreciate your way of blogging. I saved as a favorite it to my bookmark webpage list and will be checking back in the near future. Take a look at my web site as well and let me know how you feel.


    June 15, 2021 at 01:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Camper Repairs Near Me

    May I just say what a comfort to discover a person that actually knows what they're talking about on the web. You certainly understand how to bring an issue to light and make it important. A lot more people ought to check this out and understand this side of your story. It's surprising you're not more popular given that you definitely have the gift.


    June 15, 2021 at 04:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. RV Repair Nearby


    June 15, 2021 at 07:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Nearest RV Repair

    Hey there! I just want to give you a big thumbs up for the great info you have here on this post. I am returning to your blog for more soon.


    June 15, 2021 at 08:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. RV Repair Near Me

    Good blog post. I absolutely appreciate this website. Continue the good work!


    June 15, 2021 at 08:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. RV Repairs Near My Location

    I would like to thank you for the efforts you've put in penning this website. I'm hoping to check out the same high-grade blog posts by you in the future as well. In fact, your creative writing abilities has motivated me to get my own website now 😉


    June 15, 2021 at 09:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. RV Repair Orange County


    June 15, 2021 at 09:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Camper Repair Near Me


    June 15, 2021 at 10:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. RV Repairs Near My Location


    June 15, 2021 at 10:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. RV Repair Shops Near Me

    Your style is really unique compared to other people I've read stuff from. Many thanks for posting when you've got the opportunity, Guess I'll just book mark this site.


    June 15, 2021 at 10:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Camper Repair Places Near Me

    Great web site you've got here.. Itís difficult to find high quality writing like yours nowadays. I seriously appreciate people like you! Take care!!


    June 15, 2021 at 10:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. RV Repair Orange County California


    June 15, 2021 at 13:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Nearest RV Repair


    June 15, 2021 at 14:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. RV Repair Shops Near Me Now

    Good day! I just would like to give you a huge thumbs up for the excellent info you have got right here on this post. I am returning to your blog for more soon.


    June 15, 2021 at 14:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Nearest RV Repair

    I enjoy looking through a post that can make men and women think. Also, thank you for allowing me to comment!


    June 15, 2021 at 15:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. RV Repair Shops Near My Location

    Having read this I believed it was really informative. I appreciate you spending some time and effort to put this short article together. I once again find myself personally spending a lot of time both reading and posting comments. But so what, it was still worth it!


    June 15, 2021 at 16:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Sprinter Repair Orange County

    Very good article! We are linking to this particularly great content on our site. Keep up the good writing.


    June 15, 2021 at 18:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. RV Repair San Clemente California


    June 15, 2021 at 19:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. RV Repair Shop Near My Location

    Excellent blog you have got here.. Itís hard to find good quality writing like yours these days. I seriously appreciate individuals like you! Take care!!


    June 15, 2021 at 21:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Nearby RV Repairs


    June 15, 2021 at 22:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Nearby RV Repairs

    Hi there! This article could not be written much better! Going through this post reminds me of my previous roommate! He continually kept preaching about this. I most certainly will forward this post to him. Pretty sure he'll have a great read. Thank you for sharing!


    June 15, 2021 at 23:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. RV Repair Shop Near Me


    June 16, 2021 at 00:12 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37

Leave a Reply to jessica


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.