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| Nicole Chenxi
- Sun Apr 19, 2009 1:45 am
I was a light smoker for most of college, around 3 cigarettes a day to a pack a week at my worst, with multiple gaps of a few months when I wouldn't smoke at all. For the last year I've been smoking very little, maybe three packs the whole year. What are the long-term effects of such smoking? If I quit now, when would my lungs likely return to normal? How much worse is my risk of lung cancer compared to someone who never smoked? Thanks!
| Dr. Tamer Fouad
- Tue May 26, 2009 6:35 am
A meaningful risk assessment is impossible without an extensive medical examination and 'exposure' history.
Smoking is the single most important risk factor in lung cancer accounting for 80-90% of all cases of lung cancer.
Chronic heavy smokers have a 30 fold increase in relative risk compared to never smokers. Heavy smoking is usually defined as more than 10-15 cigarettes a day.
This risk varies according to the age at onset of smoking, degree of inhalation, life time duration of smoking, use of filter and the tar/nicotine content of cigarettes.
Other factors such as occupational asbestos exposure also affect risk. I say this only to stress that there may be many other risks that we still don't know about.
The good news is that abstinence, even smoking reduction results in a decreasing risk. Abstainers had an 80 to 90 % reduction in risk of lung cancer compared to current smokers. However, lung cancer risk remains higher than in the never smoker (twice).
I hope this helps answer your question.