A new analysis of the Framingham Heart Study, conducted by a team of researchers led by Hilary Tindle MD, MPH at the Vanderbilt University Medical Centre, has revealed encouraging findings for both current and former smokers.

Findings from the Study – which is supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, and examined the health records of nearly 9,000 people monitored over a number of decades – revealed individuals who stop smoking had within five years a 39.1% lower lung cancer risk relative to current smokers. The rate at which the risk of lung cancer reduces is faster than has been previously reported, and highlights the benefits of smoking cessation. This risk continues to fall as the years since quitting increases, relative to current smokers.

“If you smoke, now is a great time to quit,” said Professor Tindle, the William Anderson Spickard Jr., MD Professor of Medicine at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, and Director of the Vanderbilt Center for Tobacco, Addiction and Lifestyle. Prof. Tindle further stated: “the fact that lung cancer risk drops relatively quickly after quitting smoking, compared to continuing smoking, gives new motivation.” Nevertheless, it is worth stressing the risk of lung cancer remains elevated despite quitting relative to individuals who have never smoked. Co-researcher Matthew Freiberg, MD, MSc said: “While the importance of smoking cessation cannot be overstated, former heavy smokers need to realise that the risk of lung cancer remains elevated for decades after they smoke their last cigarette, underscoring the importance of lung cancer screening”.

Biotechnological advancements have allowed for the use of effective tools such as lung cancer screening, which significantly contribute to a reduction in the risk of death caused by lung cancer. Its benefits, however, can be maximised considerably when partnered with successful quitting.

Currently, smoking causes 1.69 million deaths worldwide each year from lung cancer, and 87% of lung cancer deaths in the United States alone. Needless to say, it very much remains a public health matter with and action needed from governmental, private, and educational entities.