How quickly does the risk for non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) decline after smoking cessation?

Updated: Jul 15, 2021
  • Author: Winston W Tan, MD, FACP; Chief Editor: Nagla Abdel Karim, MD, PhD  more...
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Answer

The risk of lung cancer declines slowly after smoking cessation. Long-term follow-up studies show that the relative risk remains high in the first 10 years after cessation and gradually declines to 2-fold approximately 30 years after cessation. This long-term risk explains the development of almost 50% of United States lung cancer cases in past smokers.

Strong cardiorespiratory fitness might help reduce lung cancer risk in men who smoke or used to smoke, accordng to the findings from a study that assessed 1602 former smokers (40 pack-years) and 1377 current smokers (43 pack-years). All were men, aged 42 to 76 years, who were free from lung cancer at baseline. Over a follow-up period of 4.6 to 18.6 years, 46 former smokers and 53 current smokers developed lung cancer. Of this group, 40 former smokers and 39 current smokers died. Men who had higher fitness levels at baseline, measured with a maximal treadmill exercise test, had a lower incidence of lung cancer during follow-up and had better survival if they did get lung cancer. [17]


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