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February 2022

Smokers: Quitting Earlier in Life Could Benefit Your Health

If you smoke, you probably know it increases your risk for many diseases, including cancer. But there may be some good news for those who kick the habit earlier in life. A recent study found that those who quit before age 45 cut their excess risk of dying of cancer by 89%.

Man pulling a cigarette out of a pack   

The sooner the better

The same study found that quitting even earlier had greater benefits. Those who were able to stop smoking before age 35 had no excess cancer risk.

But this doesn’t mean you should throw in the towel if you’re older than 45 and still smoking. The study found quitters of all ages reduced their cancer risk. Those who quit before age 55 cut their excess risk by 78%, while those who quit before age 65 cut their risk by 56%.  

The bottom line: If you smoke, quit as soon as you can to reduce your risk for cancer.

Build a quit strategy

Quitting isn’t easy. If it was, you’d have thrown out your cigarettes a long time ago. But with some help, you can stop smoking. Millions of people have done it. Here’s how:

  • Make a plan. When you decide you’re ready, set a date, mark it on your calendar, and prepare to quit.

  • Know your reasons. There are countless reasons to quit. Better health. Better smelling clothes. Extra money. Setting a good example for your kids. Choose what matters most to you. Then write those reasons down and post them in a place you’ll see every day. 

  • Plan for cravings. Nicotine is addictive. That’s what makes stopping smoking so hard. Write down a few ideas for other things you can do when a craving hits. You might take a walk, chew gum, or call a friend. Having a plan in place will help when you feel like smoking.

  • Try medicines. Consider using nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) to help you quit. NRT can double your chances for success. NRT products include gums, patches, lozenges, and inhalers. You can buy some over-the-counter but need a prescription for others. Talk with your health care provider about what might work best for you.

  • Get extra help. Quitting smoking is easier with support. Tell family and friends you are quitting and ask for their help. Or join an online support group, download an app, talk with a counselor, or sign up for a texting program. Look here for more ideas.  



Online Medical Reviewer: Brian McDonough, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Ray Turley, MSN, BSN
Date Last Reviewed: 12/1/2021
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