Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Coverage from Every Angle

Are ‘Light’ Smokers at Increased Risk of Death From Lung Cancer?

By: Susan Reckling
Posted: Monday, September 14, 2020

The health dangers of smoking are well known, and now it seems as if even “light” smoking—fewer than 10 cigarettes a day—may increase a person’s risk of both lung disease and lung cancer, according to a study presented by Pallavi Balte, MBBS, MPH, PhD, of Columbia University Medical Center, New York, and colleagues during the virtual edition of the 2020 European Respiratory Society (ERS) International Congress (Abstract 4389). In fact, “social smokers” appear to be twice as likely to die of lung disease and more than eight times as likely to die of lung cancer than nonsmokers, the investigators reported.

“You might think that if you only smoke a few cigarettes a day you are avoiding most of the risk. But our findings suggest that social smoking is disproportionately harmful,” stated Dr. Balte in an ERS press release.

The study focused on 18,730 people from a multiethnic sample of the general U.S. population. Their average age was 61. These individuals were followed by the researchers for an average of 17 years; during this time, 560 died of lung cancer, and 649 died of respiratory disease. Dr. Balte’s team calculated the death rates from respiratory disease and lung cancer and compared them among nonsmokers, social smokers, and heavy smokers. Taken into account were other factors such as age, sex, race, education, and body weight.

Compared with nonsmokers, social smokers were 2.5 times as likely to die of respiratory disease and 8.6 times as likely to die of cancer, the investigators reported. Also, social smokers had about half the rate of death from respiratory disease as heavy smokers, although the rate of death from lung cancer was two-thirds that of heavy smokers.

Disclosure: For full disclosures of the study authors, visit

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