Smoking cessation extends life for 80-year-olds

Stopping smoking in old age extends life

Recent studies show that almost every second person who smokes continuously dies from the consequences of smoking. But if one in two smokers stops using nicotine, one of them can prevent premature complications such as stroke, heart attack, or cancer. As recent research by the German Cancer Research Center showed, this even applies to people who only stopped smoking in their 80s.

According to an estimate by the World Health Organization (WHO), smoking is one of the ten most important causes of death. Around 12 percent of men and six percent of women worldwide die from the immediate consequences of addiction. Translated, this means that every second smoker dies prematurely from the consequences of tobacco consumption. A new data evaluation by the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) showed that people over the age of 60 can also benefit from an immediate stop of smoking to extend their lifespan significantly. The amazing thing: Even subjects over 80 years of age could live longer if they gave up smoking in old age.

So far, hardly any research work on stopping smoking among older people
So far, the context "smoking and the elderly" has hardly been researched. Therefore "we provide a thorough review and meta-analysis of studies to evaluate the effects of smoking on the mortality of all causes in people 60 years and older" write the researchers of the German Cancer Research Center in their study report. "Particular attention was paid to the strength of the relationship between age, the effects of smoking cessation in old age and factors that could influence the specific effects of smoking in an older population".

A team of epidemiologists led by Professor Hermann Brenner from the German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg undertook a data analysis from 17 studies from 1987 to 2011. The data base showed study participants from seven countries between 863 and around 877,000 subjects and observation phases between 3 and 50 years. It was found that the relative risk of dying for smokers over the age of 60 was 83 percent higher than for non-smokers. The evaluation showed that the increased death rate from smoking in subjects aged 60 to 69 years was 94 percent, the risk increase in those aged 70 to 79 years was 86 percent and in those over 80 years 60 percent.

If older people stopped smoking, the risk of premature death was still many times higher than that of lifelong non-smokers, but was also significantly lower than among active consumers. The death rate of former smokers was therefore only 34 percent higher than that of permanent non-smokers. In detail, the rate was increased by 54 percent for those over 60, 36 percent for those aged 70 to 79, and only 27 percent for those over 80.

It is also worth stopping smoking later
The mortality rate could even be reduced if older people quit smoking very late. The late non-smokers were able to reduce the risk of premature death by an average of 25 percent compared to active smokers. This value could be achieved if the participants survived a smoking cessation of at least ten years.

In an accompanying commentary on the study results, Professor Tai Hing Lam from the University of Hong Kong summarized that the motto “One in two smokers dies from his vice” also applies to the higher semesters. The study thus makes an important contribution to encouraging older people to stop. The social environment should also help those affected to combat addiction. Hence the message from the expert: "If you help two smokers to quit smoking, they have saved at least one life." (sb)

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Video: 8 Benefits of quitting Smoking. Smoking cessation tips. SFC

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