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More reasons to quit cigarettes: new cancer study shows effects on women smokers

Smoking can cause cancer. It’s not a controversial assertion in the modern era, but back in the 1950s it was more than a little contentious. One of the first scientists to make the link between tobacco and cancer was Sir Richard Doll.

October 28 2012 marked the centenary of Sir Richard’s birth. Friends, colleagues and associates used the anniversary as an opportunity to highlight the latest research into the connection between tobacco use and cancer. Doll died in 2005, at the age of 92, but had already seen some of the preliminary data of the latest studies.

The most startling results emerge from an Oxford University study into women smokers, published in the medical journal The Lancet. The largest-ever study of smoking among women in the UK shows that female smokers can lose at least 10 years of life on average.

Life expectancy can be drastically improved for women who stop smoking before the age of 40. This lowers by more than 90% the increased risk of dying that would affect those who continue to smoke.

The research into the long-term effects of smoking has been conducted over decades. Sir Richard Peto of the University of Oxford explained: "Women born around 1940 were the first generation in which many smoked substantial numbers of cigarettes throughout adult life. Hence, only in the 21st century could we observe directly the full effects of prolonged smoking, and of prolonged cessation, on premature mortality among women."

The tobacco habit is the main contributory factor to death among smokers in their 50s, 60s and 70s. Diseases where tobacco is a cause or influence encompass lung cancer, chronic lung disease, heart disease, and strokes.

In the light of the latest research, it’s unsurprising that Doll’s friends suggested that the anniversary of his birth might be a suitable day to give up smoking.

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