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
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.
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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.
You are the idiot pal. I walk 3 miles every day and don't even break a sweat let alone cough and wheeze. I don't know how old you are but you cannot be very old because you have learned nothing. I am healthy as hell. My doctor, who I see for a checkup once a year tells me I am healthy as a 40 year old so stuff it you moron.
I wish everyone would stop acting like their experience trumps everyone else's and anyone who says otherwise is ignorant and wrong. We all have different reactions to drugs and toxins. Some people will smoke and experience few consequences while others that smoke will have many consequences. But stop saying that just because YOU didn't have that experience, it isn't true. You're seriously what is wrong with this world. Many people live with a reality that others don't, but to invalidate their experience and tell them they are crazy is wrong.
I have to disagree. I started smoking at the age of 13 i am now 51 i smoke 1 pack a day. The only time i did not smoke was when i carried my son. I tried to quit smoking and develop C.O.P.D. so i started back and i have no problem breathing. How do you explain this
I smoke daily 2 to 4 light cigratee does it give any harm like lung cancer but people say smoking 3 light cigratee dosent make any problem please give answer
It depends on what you mean by "a problem." If you are young and you smoke five cigarettes or so every day for the rest of your life the statistics say that you are likely increasing your chances of dying from lung cancer by several hundred percent. However, the statistic you never see out there is what your chances of such a death actually ARE! Since lung cancer is a fairly rare disease (Lifetime risk for a nonsmoker is about 1/2 of 1%.) increasing that risk by 300% only raises it to a lifetime risk of about 2% - i.e. one chance in fifty over a lifetime that might extend up into ones 80s or beyond.
That doesn't seem very big, but on the other hand, just as a very few people will be the ones who smoke and live to over 100 years old, there will also be some very few people who smoke and get a lung cancer in their 40s and die who might not have gotten it if they hadn't smoked.
– MJM, not a doctor, and I don't even play one on TV..
send me pictures of smokers lungs
Here is a link explaining exactly why there are all the claims that smoking is so bad for you. Judge for yourself after reading the true facts. Here is a link to the truth: http://www.greyastongreen.com/
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How long does it take for a 13 year old to die from smokeing ciggereatse
According to the Antismokers' own figures, the SAMMEC calculations on "premature deaths" the AVERAGE age for a smoker (who, according to the Antismokers, almost always started smoking as a teen) to die from smoking is in their early 70s. That's assuming that the teen continues to smoke pretty much throughout the rest of their life. I don't know any precise statistics on it, but I believe that currently about half the people who are in their forties/fifties who began smoking as teens have quit smoking (and thus greatly reduced their chances of "dying from smoking.") According to the UK's recent "Million Women Study" a woman who stops smoking by age 30 (again, after, on average, starting as a mid-teen) avoids 97% of the risks of smoking.
If you're asking in terms of yourself, smoking regularly is a significant health risk and you're better off not doing it. But in terms of fears of imminent deaths of you or a brother or sister who is smoking you shouldn't let yourself be over-frightened by the propaganda out there.
– MJM, not a doctor by the way.... but I *have* read and written very widely in this subject area.
Having operated on many with smoking related complications you can be certain your disease risks go way up if you smoke. After we operate many times the only thing we can tell the family is his life span has been shortened to terminal status as little we could do to save the patient.
Smoking kills sometimes fast, sometimes slow but it almost always wins out.
I am a 26 year old female and have been smoking since I was 8 years old..I am 118 lbs approximately..is this the reason I cannot gain weight...plus ive tried the gum to quit and it didnt help...please and thankyou
My grandmother started smoking when she was 12. She finally quite smoking when she turned 89. At 90 she was diagnosed with lung cancer and that was the year she bought a red car. Her neighbor also bought a red car that same year and he died of skin cancer at 49 years old, the same year as my grandmother died. Obviously having purchased a red car is what led to cancer. Right? I mean if you are going to look only at anecdotal evidence, then it has to be the red car.
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Im 21 year old male and i started smoking 3 years ago and still continuing. Now a days, im having small chest pain. Is it a serious issue for a 3year smoker. For 3 days im having a pain in my left shoulder, dont know whether it is muscle pain or bone pain. And i dont remember of it is cause by some mispositions in sleep. Anyway my chest pain is bothering me mentally. Do I have a chance of catching lung cancer with just 3 years of experience in smoking?
Way to not answer the question. You lose all credibility when you get on the soapbox and ignore legitimate questions.
Dear doc . ive been urging to smoke ciggerettes but trying cigars and they satisfy me more. How long will it take for me to die if i inhale them?
Ive been inhaling instead of gushing .
How long will it take doc?
My wife has smoked a pack and a half a day for 38 years – she's fine except that she cough's her lungs up every morning and is breathless at the slightest physical exertion – don't tell to give up – she get's really cross!
my age is 13 i have smoked once ,not all but only one time i sucked it can harm me?and i promise that from today onward i will never smoke.sir please give suggestion and mail me suggestion.
I smoked from 13-24 years old. I quit when I got pregnant with my first child. I didn't smoke for 30 years. I started back 3 years ago. What are my chances of getting lung cancer? I'm 54 years old now.
Hi Lalani – depends on your genes, lifestyle and diet as well as how many ciggies per day. My research leads me to say that if you can keep below 10 ciggies per day there is less than 0.5% chance of getting lung cancer, especially as you stopped for 30 years. I provide a link to an NIH study that the media ignores when selling fear about cigarettes http://cebp.aacrjournals.org/content/15/3/517.full?ijkey=f64b3818750225ee4fca48137b658e4463d74b0d#BIB1 Enjoy a ciggy with a beer and stay lean 🙂
hey doc i m 18 n i smoke what r the chances of me getting cancer n how long will it take to cause me
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If you're readings this, then you're a smoker. I wish I never started. It's never too late. Please stop. You have the power to overcome. Please stop.
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The age, when I was in college, was 30. The rationale, at the time, was that the lungs suffered a significant decrease in its ability to regenerate cells. It's interesting to see numbers increase in age in relation to cancers when normally younger ages tend to cause a greater predisposition. Granted, it makes sense if you started smoking when you were 12 as apposed to 30, but my question is really about the research and advances that prove 40 is the new number to quit. Why?
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Sir,I have been smoking for one year...on average i smoke 1 cigarette per day.And now i have shortness of breath with cough and slight chest pain....the chest pain and shortness of breath occured recently bt i have cough for more than 2 month...sir can u tell me if im suffering from lung cancer?. Thank you
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i have been smoking for six years now, but i am not a chain smoker and have reduced smoking to about 2 cigerettes per three weeks two years from now,
what is the probability for me to suffer from lung canceror any such disease?
please reply soon....
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I can not quit smoking i smoke a cig every 5 min it controls my life and my finaces i just dont know what to do i am a recovering meth addict i quit everyrhing but i can not quit smoking this is the worse drug every made
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Is it possible for a 18 year old boy to gets lung cancer
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My friend smoked for 25 years, and recently lost his anus from smoking ( basically the entire lower bowel had to be removed ). He now has a bag that he has to empy every day, and a tube in his side. He's not getting much ( if any ) where the ladies are concerned. I am glad i quit over 10 years ago, and still have my anus. Its very easy to quit. It takes about a week of hell and you are done. During your week you just need to remember that your body is making some changes, and just see it as an experiment with you that you can observe 'ok, now i'm getting a craving' etc.. just think how intollerable your life would be without your anus and a bag to crap in.
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.............so what can you just answer the question? on average how long before a smoker develops lung cancer or any cancer? 10-20 years?
The old saying is "the first cigarette is what kills you" because once someone starts smoking, they won't stop until it kills them. Even if it takes 50 years.
some girl said her cousin died in 6 years from smoking cigs. can it happen?
My question is that is there any relationship between lung cancer and type of cigarettes for smoking? Like I'm living in Pakistan and here type of cigarettes are: capstan,morven, gold leaf, Dun hill. Now my question is which type is more prone to develop lung cancer? And is there relationship between these two variables? Actually I want to do study on this topic. I will be very thankful for your kind response
My age is 18 and i have started smoking from last 6 months and smoke 3 cigarettes per day can i know what's the % that ill be suffering from cancer or any other Disease
A friend of mine has been having constant chest pain and just weakness for 4 days now. Should we take it to be lung cancer already
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So much brainwashing. Someone who smoke less than a pack a week has a very low chance of getting cancer, and if they do it's hard to determine whether it's genetic, week lungs, or attributed to pollution. A pack a day smoker for fifty years has a ten percent of developing heart disease or cancer. Let's be honest and stop lying. Yes, people should stay away from smoking, but scaring the beJesus out of someone who smokes two cigarettes a week on Friday night with their fifth beer is just brainwashing.
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It was hell for me due to the severe difficulty breathing. April 2016 my sister in-law told us about Rich Herbs Foundation where she ordered herbs that effectively treated her arthritis. We ordered their COPD HERBAL TREATMENT after reading alot of positive reviews from other patients, i am happy to report the COPD HERBAL TREATMENT worked very effective for my lungs condition. My quality of life has greatly improved and every one of my symptoms including difficulty breathing, respiratory infections, chronic cough and wheezing has simply stopped. Visit ww w. richherbsfoundation. c om. I will be 52 soon and have never been healthier
I just stumbled across this article, and read some of the comments. People seem to be asking how long it will take for someone to develop cancer or another disease from smoking. Now, I don't mean to sound condescending or anything, but how stupid can you be? Like is there a limit? One comment said he smoked for 2 years and developed serious asthma, a comment on that says that another guy was smoking for 13 years and hasn't noticed a damn thing wrong. Everybody is different. I thought that was clearly established. Everybody's body reacts differently to stimuli and there is no time line on the development of cancer or disease.
People from across the globe for unknown reasons (to me at least) start using some sort of drug knowing that they're addictive. It's like their tempting fate, like they think that they can get away with the high without paying the cost. Some of these people are thrill seekers, others daredevils. Most are just plain stupid. There are people in my town who are of young age, but old enough to know what happens to smokers and drug abusers, and for no apparent reason smoke and abuse drugs themselves. So why? I thought common sense was a thing, but I guess people just ignore it.
There are so many smoking stores in and near this town, its surprising. They seem to be thriving, mean while locally owned businesses are going broke. People seem to chose to be unhealthy; to do drugs. There are just corrupt people using stupid people to gain a profit. While the tobacco companies are primarily to blame, so are the idiots who bought their products.