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Smoking-Related Diseases (Adults)

What's the Problem?

The major health risks of smoking include: increased risk of coronary heart disease; stroke; ulcers; and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Smoking also increases the risk for several types of cancers including mouth, throat, esophagus, larynx, lung, bladder, and cervix. The leading cause of cancer death for both men and women is lung cancer.

In 2006, an estimated 45.3 million adults were current smokers. In 2004, about 27,000 more women died of lung cancer (about 68,000) than of breast cancer (about 41,000). In 2001, approximately 178,000 women died prematurely from smoking-related diseases, including lung and other cancers, heart disease, stroke and chronic lung diseases such as emphysema.

Who's at Risk?

Anyone who smokes is at risk for smoking-related diseases.

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Can It Be Prevented?

Yes. The risk of smoking-related disease is greatly reduced if someone never smoked; however, there are health benefits to someone who quits smoking.

The Bottom Line

Benefits to quitting smoking:

  • Reduced risk for dying prematurely. Benefits are greater for people who stop at earlier ages, but quitting is beneficial at all ages.
  • Lower risk for lung and other types of cancer.
  • Reduced risk for coronary heart disease, stroke, and peripheral vascular disease after quitting. Coronary heart disease risk is substantially reduced within 1 to 2 years of quitting.
  • Reduced respiratory symptoms, such as coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath.
  • Reduced risk for adverse reproductive outcomes such as infertility or having a low-birth-weight baby.

Case Example

Bob enjoys smoking, he really does. He enjoys the relaxation that it brings; the way he thinks it makes him look cool. He especially likes going to cigar bars and socializing with others while smoking high priced cigars. Recently he began to notice that he was coughing a lot more than he used to and is experiencing shortness of breath. Worse yet, he noticed white patches on the inside of his upper lip.

He consulted with his doctor. While he was waiting for his test results he told the doctor about his smoking habit. Sighing as if he had heard Bob's story all too often, the doctor explained that it was his smoking habit that was causing his problems. His doctor explained about the effects of smoking on the lungs and that the white patches were potentially pre-cancerous lesions. This really scared Bob, but the doctor also told him that after he quit smoking his health risks would diminish.

Bob, being the smart person he was, took the advice. To help him quit smoking, he used the nicotine replacement therapy recommended by his doctor. For additional help, Bob called the Quitline at 1-800-QUITNOW. Bob is now training for a marathon and works with high school aged runners to keep tobacco out of their lives.

For more information on the harmful effects of smoking, visit: Health Effects

  • Page last reviewed: September 15, 2017
  • Page last updated: September 15, 2017
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