Researchers say women can avoid most of the ill effects of smoking by kicking the habit before the age of 40. Those who continue stand to lose a decade of life.
The study, by researchers at Oxford University, is published to mark tomorrow’s 100th anniversary of the birth of Sir Richard Doll, the physician who arguably has saved more lives than anyone else. He was the first, with his colleague Austin Bradford Hill, to make the link between smoking and cancer in the early 1950s, when four out of five men and two out of five women in the UK smoked. Now, thanks to campaigns highlighting the risks of smoking, the proportion is down to one in five in both sexes. Even so, smoking remains the leading preventable cause of death in the UK, US and other countries.
The findings, from the Million Women study published in The Lancet, show that smokers who continue with the habit after 40 have 10 times the risks of those who stop at 40. The risks are highest among the heaviest smokers, but even light smokers, who consume between 1 and 9 cigarettes a day, have twice the risk of dying prematurely compared with non-smokers.