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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

BU: Lung Cancer Risk Drops Quickly After Quitting Smoking, But Persists

A new study co-authored by a Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) researcher finds lung cancer risk decreases by 39 percent five years after someone quits smoking, but after 25 years is still three times the risk of someone who never smoked.

For the study, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, the researchers conducted an analysis of the Boston University-based Framingham Heart Study, one of the world’s longest-running studies on cardiovascular disease. That study, which is supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, previously helped establish high blood pressure and high cholesterol as key risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

Current federal guidelines, which mandate insurance coverage of lung cancer screening for current and former smokers, exclude those who have not smoked for 15 years or more. Yet 4 of 10 cancers in heavy smokers in the current study occurred more than 15 years after they quit.

“These data underscore a potential need for screening former heavy smokers for lung cancer risk beyond the currently recommended time period of 15 years,” says co-author Dr. Vasan Ramachandran, professor of medicine at the Boston University School of Medicine and of epidemiology at BUSPH.
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