Study: Smoking-related deaths among women higher than ever

"Women who smoke like men die like men," researchers wrote

Topics: Smoking, Health, Cigarettes, tobacco, Big Tobacco, ,

Study: Smoking-related deaths among women higher than ever (Credit: iStockphoto/2StockMedia)

A new study has found that women who smoke are more likely to die from lung cancer now than ever before.

The research was published in Thursday’s New England Journal of Medicine, and is one of the most comprehensive looks ever at long-term effects of smoking.

The risk of death from lung cancer has been rising steadily since the 1960s, when female smokers were 2.7 times more likely to die from the disease compared with women who didn’t smoke. By the 1980s, women who smoked were 12.6 times more likely to die from lung cancer, and in the 2000s, they were 25.7 times more likely to die, according to the study.

Because lung cancer takes years to develop, researchers believe the dramatic increase in death rates reflects changes in smoking patterns among women that began in the 1960s. (Thanks, “Mad Men.”)

The study’s findings also reveal other smoking-related risks unique to women.

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The chances that a woman will live to 80 years old is 70 percent for those who never smoked and 38 percent for smokers. In men, the numbers were 61 percent and 26 percent. Women are also far less likely to quit smoking than men are. Among people 65 to 69, the ratio of former to current smokers is 4-to-1 for men and 2-to-1 for women, the study found.

Scientists have made very little progress against lung cancer compared with other forms of the disease, and it remains the leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide. “More women die of lung cancer than of breast cancer. But there is no ‘race for the cure’ for lung cancer,” Dr. Steven A. Schroeder of the University of California, San Francisco, wrote in a commentary in the journal.

Katie McDonough is Salon's politics writer, focusing on gender, sexuality and reproductive justice. Follow her on Twitter @kmcdonovgh or email her at

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