Study: Smokers are more likely to die from heart disease than lung cancer

Image shows 3D illustration of a human heart connected to blood vessels.

Researchers are reporting for the first time that smokers are more likely to die from heart disease than lung cancer and are more likely to die from a fatal cardiovascular event without warning.  

Despite progress in reducing cigarette smoking among U.S. adults, an estimated 34 million adults in the United States continue to smoke, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  While most people recognize that smoking is associated with lung cancer, its association with cardiovascular disease is not as well recognized.  

In an observational study, the researchers used data from nine population-based studies that followed people for several decades to examine the risk of cardiovascular disease among smokers. The analysis included data from more than 100,000 adults between the ages of 20 and 79 who were free from cardiovascular disease at the start of the studies. 

Among the findings: More than 50% of adults aged 40 to 59 who smoked developed cardiovascular disease and were almost twice as likely to die of a fatal heart attack, stroke, or heart failure without previous warning. The researchers also found that young men and women who smoked were more than twice as likely to have a fatal cardiovascular event as their first sign of cardiovascular disease compared to nonsmokers.  

The findings underscore the importance of smoking cessation, the researchers noted. The study, partly funded by the NHLBI, appeared in the Journal of the American Heart Association