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by Marijana Domazet, Monday, January 28, 2013 | Categories: Smoking

It would be hard to find a person today that is not aware of the health risks smoking brings with it. Every now and then a study comes out with a fresh perspective of how these risks have changed and reminds us why smoking risks should not be ignored. One of those is a recent large-scale study suggesting that since the 1960s female smokers have caught up with male smokers in terms of the risks of death due to lung cancer.

The study, which was published in New England Journal of Medicine, measured mortality trends during three time periods (1960s, 1980s, 2000s) and compared the findings with results from historical and current cohort studies concerned with smoking status. In total, the cohort data included 900,000 men and 1.3 million women from the US, who were classified as current smokers, past smokers and never smokers. The key findings indicated that there were gender differences in how the pattern of the risk of death due to lung cancer among smokers had changed over the years. Among women, the risk of death due to lung cancer had increased from 30/100000 in the 1960s to 506/100000 during the 2000s. In contrast to that, the risk of death due to lung cancer among men peaked during the 1980s but remained similar among the smokers of 2000-2010 and their past generation. These findings led the researchers to conclude that the risk of death was increasing among female smokers and reaching similar proportions to the current risk of death among male smokers. Although some newspapers have speculated as to why this may be, there is not enough data in the current study to verify any of those suggestions.

There are several issues worth considering when reading about the findings. The most obvious may be that this study covered an interpretation of findings from several other studies conducted during different time points and with different teams. No scientific study is ever perfect, so it is likely that each of those cohort studies came with their own flaws such as not following up whether the participants smoking status changed during the course of the study. Similarly, how smoking was seen and reported in the 1960s may vary from how it is seen today. Therefore, it would be worth critically considering how participants were selected, and what measures were taken to ensure that their reporting was reliable. Nevertheless, it is worth commending the researchers analysing enormous amounts of data across time periods in the United States. Given that all the studies were conducted in the US, the researchers managed to circumvent many obstacles that cross-national studies may have had. However, it came at the expense of the data being most applicable to Americans. You can read more information here.

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