Last Modified: March 22, 2012
I have smoked for about 20 years, would it even matter if I quit now? Will I still get lung cancer?
Gloria DiLullo, MSN, CRNP, OncoLink Content Specialist, responds:
Quitting is beneficial, no matter how long a person has smoked. While it is true that your risk of having lung cancer and other smoking-related illnesses and cancers depends on how much you have been exposed to cigarette smoke over your lifetime, the good news is that the risk of these diseases is reduced when you stop smoking. The risk of lung cancer and dying at a younger age is less in people who quit smoking than in people who keep smoking even if it has been 20 years. Within minutes of smoking the last cigarette, the body begins to restore itself. In a month to 3 months, your heart and lungs are already working so much better and you start on your way to decreasing your risk of heart and lung problems and also cancer. The risk of having lung cancer and other smoking-related illnesses decreases after you stop smoking and continues to decrease as more tobacco-free time passes. The risk of lung cancer decreases over time, though it can never return to that of a never smoker. The risk also continues to decrease for the 12 other types of cancer smoking can cause cancers of the oral (mouth) and nasal (nose) cavity, sinuses, pharynx (throat), larynx (voice box), esophagus (tube from the throat to the stomach), stomach, pancreas, liver, bladder, kidney, cervix and one type of leukemia (acute myeloid leukemia).
This question and answer was part of the OncoLink Brown Bag Chat Series. View the entire Cancer Risk & Prevention Webchat transcript.