Lung cancer and other lung problems from smoking

People who smoke are 10 times more likely to develop lung cancer than people who do not smoke. After you quit, your risk for developing lung cancer drops gradually. By 10 years, your risk will be 30% to 50% lower than it would have been if you had continued to smoke. This risk continues to decline as the number of years of not smoking increases.1

Two other lung diseases related to smoking are chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Either disease or the combination of both diseases is often called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Smoking damages the breathing tubes and lung tissue. This damage does not repair itself. However, quitting smoking stops the ongoing damage caused by tobacco smoke.

People who have asthma have more frequent or worse asthma attacks if they smoke. Those who quit smoking usually have fewer, shorter asthma attacks.1

People who smoke have more colds, flu, and pneumonia than people who do not smoke. After you quit smoking, you will have fewer of these illnesses. You will probably lose your "smoker's cough" 1 or 2 weeks after you quit smoking.

After you quit smoking, the damage to the lung tissue slows down. In the first days after quitting, you may notice that you cough up more mucus than usual. This is the result of your body trying to clear your lungs. However, you will also notice after several weeks that you can breathe more easily, have more stamina, and, eventually, cough less.

Citations

  1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (1990). The Health Benefits of Smoking Cessation: A Report of the Surgeon General, 1990 (DHHS [CDC] Publication No. 90-8416). Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Last Updated: July 22, 2009

Author: Bets Davis, MFA

Medical Review: Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & John Hughes, MD - Psychiatry

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