Lung Cancer FAQ: Risk of exposure from smoking ten years ago

Q: I stopped smoking 10 years ago, how much risk is there that I will develop lung cancer?

A: Congratulations! You have taken the best action to reduce your risk by stopping smoking for 10 years!

Once you have stopped smoking the risk of lung cancer decreases over time as normal healthy cells replace damaged cells. After 10 years the risk is about 1/3 to 1/2 of that of someone who continued to smoke.

Also, the risk is lower if you smoked a smaller number of cigarettes or smoked for a shorter period of time. Age makes a difference, too: the younger you were when you started smoking, the higher the risk; while the younger you are when you stop smoking, the lower the risk.

If you smoked heavily in the past your risk will always remain higher than that of a non-smoker, but much lower than if you had continued to smoke.

To counter this risk, have regular check-ups with your doctor and watch for the signs of lung cancer such as a cough that does not go away, coughing up bloody sputum, chest wall pain, shortness of breath or hoarseness. These symptoms should be checked by your doctor right away.

Answers provided by Providence lung cancer experts.
Last updated: August 2002