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Smoking and Race
Part I Part II Part III
The Connection Between Smoking and Prostate Cancer Smoking and Your Telomeres Smoking and Race


At this point we all know that smoking is bad for your health, but new studies have shown that race may also be a factor in the connection between smoking and cancer. Platz, Miranda Jones, Ph.D., and colleagues looked at 6,646 white and black men, average age nearly 55, who participated in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities study.   These men did not have a diagnosis of prostate cancer when they started the study, between 1987 and 1989, and were followed for an average of 20 years.  Over this time, 91 men died of prostate cancer.  “We found that when compared with never smokers, current smokers and men who had quit within the past 10 years were more likely to die from prostate cancer – but we found no difference in the risk of dying from prostate cancer between men who had quit smoking more than 10 years ago and men who had never smoked. Our findings were similar in white and black men.”

In their previous study, of 6,030 former smokers between the ages of 20 and 79 who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 1999 to 2012, Jones, Platz and colleagues found that African-American men tended to smoke for about two years longer than other men before quitting.  This study was published in Nicotine & Tobacco Research.

The key here is the “longer exposure to cigarette smoke,” says Platz.  “If black men are smoking longer than white men before quitting, maybe this gets them further into the natural history of their disease before prostate cancer is even detected.”

But there is good news for men of all races, says Platz:  For prostate cancer, “it is not too late to quit.”  Your risk of dying of prostate cancer starts going down the day you stop smoking!  In 10 years, it’s the same as if you had never smoked!  “Quitting now can make a big difference.  If you smoke, you should quit, and if you have prostate cancer, you should definitely quit.”

Whatever smoking does to fan the flames of cancer stops happening when you quit,” she adds:  “There is no point in the spectrum of prostate cancer where quitting smoking is not helpful.”

It’s hard to quit smoking, but there are a lot of programs and people who want to help, who are just sitting around waiting for you to call.  In most states, this help is completely free:  Call 1-800-QUIT NOW.  If you don’t want to talk to someone, you can do it by text.  Go online to this website: smokefree.gov.


Janet Worthington
Janet Farrar Worthington is an award-winning science writer and has written and edited numerous health publications and contributed to several other medical books. In addition to writing on medicine, Janet also writes about her family, her former life on a farm in Virginia, her desire to own more chickens, and whichever dog is eyeing the dinner dish.