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. Custom Van Repair Shop Near Me

    I used to be able to find good information from your articles.


    June 28, 2021 at 00:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Sprinter Repair Shops Near Me


    June 28, 2021 at 06:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Sprinter Van Upgrades Shop Near Me

    This excellent website certainly has all of the info I needed about this subject and didnít know who to ask.


    June 28, 2021 at 06:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Nearby RV Repairs

    After looking over a handful of the articles on your web page, I really like your technique of writing a blog. I book marked it to my bookmark website list and will be checking back in the near future. Take a look at my website as well and let me know what you think.


    June 28, 2021 at 06:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. pharmaceptica.com

    sildenafil cheapest price in india https://www.pharmaceptica.com/

    June 28, 2021 at 07:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Mercedes Camper Van Repair


    June 28, 2021 at 10:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Luxury Repair Shop Near Me

    Right here is the perfect website for anyone who wishes to understand this topic. You know a whole lot its almost tough to argue with you (not that I personally will need toÖHaHa). You certainly put a brand new spin on a subject which has been written about for many years. Great stuff, just excellent!


    June 28, 2021 at 10:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Mecedes Sprinter Repair


    June 28, 2021 at 10:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Rv Paint Shop


    June 28, 2021 at 11:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. RV Repair Mission Viejo


    June 28, 2021 at 11:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Camper Repair Near Me


    June 28, 2021 at 13:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. RV Repair Shop

    Iím amazed, I must say. Rarely do I encounter a blog thatís both equally educative and engaging, and let me tell you, you've hit the nail on the head. The issue is an issue that not enough folks are speaking intelligently about. I'm very happy I came across this in my hunt for something regarding this.


    June 28, 2021 at 13:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. RV Repair Orange County


    June 28, 2021 at 14:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Sprinter Repair Near Me


    June 28, 2021 at 14:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Start Error Mercedes Sprinter Repair

    Itís hard to find knowledgeable people on this subject, however, you sound like you know what youíre talking about! Thanks


    June 28, 2021 at 15:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Mercedes Camper Van Repair Shop Near Me


    June 28, 2021 at 16:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. RV Repair Santa Ana

    This is the right web site for anyone who wishes to find out about this topic. You understand a whole lot its almost tough to argue with you (not that I really would want toÖHaHa). You certainly put a brand new spin on a subject which has been discussed for a long time. Great stuff, just excellent!


    June 28, 2021 at 19:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Roof Mounted A/C Leak Repair On Sprinter Van


    June 28, 2021 at 19:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. RV Repair Fountain Valley

    I used to be able to find good information from your articles.


    June 28, 2021 at 19:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Frightliner Sprinter Repair Shop


    June 28, 2021 at 20:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Sprinter Repair Costa Mesa

    Way cool! Some extremely valid points! I appreciate you writing this post plus the rest of the site is very good.


    June 28, 2021 at 20:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. pharmaceptica.com

    what is chloroquine used for https://www.pharmaceptica.com/

    June 28, 2021 at 21:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Sprinter Van Repair

    Can I simply say what a relief to find someone who actually understands what they are discussing online. You definitely realize how to bring an issue to light and make it important. A lot more people need to read this and understand this side of your story. It's surprising you aren't more popular because you surely possess the gift.


    June 28, 2021 at 21:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Authorized Sprinter Repair Shop

    You need to be a part of a contest for one of the most useful websites on the web. I'm going to highly recommend this site!


    June 28, 2021 at 22:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Mercedes Cargo Van Repair Shop Near Me


    June 28, 2021 at 22:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. RV Repair Orange County California

    I was very happy to uncover this web site. I want to to thank you for ones time due to this fantastic read!! I definitely really liked every little bit of it and I have you bookmarked to see new information on your blog.


    June 28, 2021 at 22:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Rv Frame Repair

    This page truly has all of the information and facts I needed about this subject and didnít know who to ask.


    June 28, 2021 at 22:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Sprinter Van Upgrades Shop

    I really like it whenever people get together and share thoughts. Great website, continue the good work!


    June 28, 2021 at 23:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. pharmacepticacom

    erectile dysfunction when viagra doesn t work https://www.pharmaceptica.com/

    June 28, 2021 at 23:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Sprinter Seat Belt Buckle Repair


    June 29, 2021 at 00:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. RV Repairs Near Me


    June 29, 2021 at 00:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Sprinter Repair Near Me


    June 29, 2021 at 00:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. RV Repair Orange County


    June 29, 2021 at 00:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Camper Repairs Near Me

    Hi there, I think your site might be having browser compatibility problems. When I look at your website in Safari, it looks fine however when opening in I.E., it has some overlapping issues. I merely wanted to provide you with a quick heads up! Other than that, fantastic site!


    June 29, 2021 at 01:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. South Haven Michigan Mercedes Sprinter Repair Near Me

    Hello! I could have sworn Iíve visited this site before but after going through many of the articles I realized itís new to me. Anyways, Iím definitely delighted I came across it and Iíll be book-marking it and checking back regularly!


    June 29, 2021 at 01:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. RV Repair Orange County California


    June 29, 2021 at 03:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. RV Repair Near Me Now

    Next time I read a blog, I hope that it doesn't disappoint me as much as this particular one. After all, Yes, it was my choice to read through, nonetheless I really believed you would have something helpful to say. All I hear is a bunch of moaning about something that you can fix if you were not too busy seeking attention.


    June 29, 2021 at 06:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Camper Repair Shops Near Me


    June 29, 2021 at 09:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. RV Repair San Clemente California

    Excellent site you have got here.. Itís difficult to find high-quality writing like yours nowadays. I honestly appreciate individuals like you! Take care!!


    June 29, 2021 at 10:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Auto Sprinter Repair

    An impressive share! I have just forwarded this onto a friend who was conducting a little homework on this. And he in fact ordered me lunch simply because I stumbled upon it for him... lol. So let me reword this.... Thanks for the meal!! But yeah, thanks for spending time to discuss this issue here on your web page.


    June 29, 2021 at 10:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Delivery Van Repair

    Everything is very open with a really clear clarification of the challenges. It was really informative. Your website is extremely helpful. Thank you for sharing!


    June 29, 2021 at 11:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Nearby RV Repairs


    June 29, 2021 at 11:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Van Auto Repair

    After I initially left a comment I seem to have clicked the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and now each time a comment is added I recieve 4 emails with the exact same comment. There has to be a way you are able to remove me from that service? Many thanks!


    June 29, 2021 at 13:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. RV Repair California


    June 29, 2021 at 13:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Dent Repair Shop Near Me

    A motivating discussion is worth comment. I do believe that you need to publish more on this topic, it may not be a taboo subject but typically people don't discuss these issues. To the next! Best wishes!!


    June 29, 2021 at 15:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Ford Luxury Van Repair Shop Near Me

    Very good article. I will be going through a few of these issues as well..


    June 29, 2021 at 17:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. RV Repair Shops Near My Location

    Hello there! I simply would like to give you a big thumbs up for your great info you have right here on this post. I will be coming back to your site for more soon.


    June 29, 2021 at 19:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Sprinter Black Death Repair

    After looking at a number of the blog articles on your website, I seriously like your technique of writing a blog. I book-marked it to my bookmark site list and will be checking back soon. Please check out my website too and let me know what you think.


    June 29, 2021 at 20:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Mercedes Benz Sprinter Repair


    June 29, 2021 at 20:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. RV Repair Shops Nearby

    After exploring a handful of the blog articles on your web page, I honestly appreciate your way of writing a blog. I saved it to my bookmark webpage list and will be checking back in the near future. Take a look at my website too and let me know your opinion.


    June 29, 2021 at 20:44 | 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 Mac Yonemori


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.