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Study: Females who quit smoking before age 40 add nine years to their lives

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
October 28th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Good news: According to a new study, women add nine years to their lives if they manage to quit before age 40. The bad news: They still face a 20 percent higher risk of death over those women who never smoked. That's the conclusion reached by a study of 1.2 million women in the United Kingdom, published in the medical journal The Lancet.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - as reported in the Lancet, smoking throughout adulthood chopped on average of 11 years off the average lifespan of British women. These results reiterated the findings of earlier research conducted on men.

Researchers found that women who kicked the habit before the age of 40, the researchers measured an average lifespan gain of more than nine years compared with those who never stopped. For women who quit before the age of 30, the gains were even bigger, at about 10 years.

"Whether they are men or women, smokers who stop before reaching middle age will on average gain about an extra 10 years of life," study co-author Richard Peto of the University of Oxford said.

However - and a very big however: This doesn't mean it's safe to continue smoking until the age of 40 before quitting. "Women who do so have throughout the next few decades [of their lives] mortality rate 1.2 times that of never-smokers. This is a substantial excess risk, causing one in six of the deaths among these ex-smokers."

The popularity of smoking reached its peak among women in the 1960s, decades later than for men, in both the United States and Europe.

The recent study is one of the most extensive probes into the impacts of smoking on this generation of women, the ones most likely to have smoked substantially throughout their adult lives.

The research is part of a vast survey that enrolled 1.2 million women in the U.K. between 1996 and 2001. The volunteers were asked to detail their smoking history, and were followed for an average of 12 years.

The women were at the median age of 55 years old when they first registered. Twenty percent of them were smokers, 28 percent ex-smokers, while 52 percent had never smoked.

Researchers found that the group of women who continued smoking had three times the overall mortality rate of those who had never smoked.

While the risks increased with the amount smoked, "Even those smoking fewer than 10 cigarettes per day... had double the overall mortality rate than never-smokers," warned the study. The study also cautioned over the purported "healthier" options of so-called "light" cigarettes, smoked by most of the women in the study.

"Low-tar cigarettes are not low-risk cigarettes and... more than half of those who smoke them will eventually be killed by them," the authors warned.

The key causes of death among smokers were chronic lung disease, lung cancer, stroke and heart disease.

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