Friday, September 05, 2008

Risk of death

This blog contains a diagrammatic picture of what is likely to kill you at various ages given your gender and your smoking status. Its an interesting discussion although the original Journal of the National Cancer Institute article by S. Woloshin, L. Schwartz & H. Welch is even better. The 'risk charts' Figures 3-5 are excellent.

Crucially from my perspective it gives an accurate picture of the health risks of smoking and of the prospects of my own mortality. To summarise:

At any age you are more likely to die if you are a male than a woman.

Roughly speaking if you smoke you add about 5-10 years to your life. Thus a 60 year old smoker has about the same life expectancy as a 65 year old non-smoker.

Compared to a non-smoker a 60 year old male smoker has about double the risk of dying from vascular (heart or stroke) disease and about 25 times the risk of lung cancer. Ex smokers have experience somewhere between these extremes but still a greatly increased risk of lung cancer.

Overall of 1000 60 year old male individuals, 115 never-smokers will die within 10 years, 256 smokers will die and 166 former smokers will die.

Of 1000 60-year old women only 84 never-smokers will die within 10 years, 167 smokers will die and 125 former smokers will die. Women smokers from age 40 on have a much higher risk of dying within 10 years from lung cancer than from cancer of the breast. At age 65 the difference is a factor of 8.

This is only a sketch of the main conclusions. Well worth a more careful view.


Hat tip to FXH.

7 comments:

Chris Lloyd said...

It's an interesting graphic Harry. Tables of numbers are very hard to digest. Replacing the numbers with circles makes pattern recognition, contrast and matching much easier. So I like the graphic a lot.

I am not sure that the “former smoker” category is helpful. When did they stop smoking? The graphics makes it look like they might as well have continued. I would need to read the paper to find out – which is a failure of the graphic. (I did some meta-analysis in the 90s and it seemed that if you gave up smoking you ended up at about double baseline risk after 10-20 years. The graphic should reflect this if the category “former smoker” was appropriately defined).

The graphic puts the hysteria about road accidents in perspective. Even total accidents are a minor nuisance. Notice how the “falls followed by hip surgery complications” kick in at higher ages.

What I do not understand is why heart disease is not more clearly associated with smoking. I have had the notion that the exceed mortality from smoking was as much heart related as lung cancer related. The chart does not really show that – though the risk kicks in earlier with smokers. It’s probably a visual baseline effect. Heart disease is high for all groups so the excess mortality for smokers is not as visually clear.

conrad said...

That's a great graph.

Francis Xavier Holden said...

Glad you liked iit HArry.

"Overall of 1000 60 year old male individuals, 115 never-smokers will die within 10 years, 256 smokers will die and 166 former smokers will die"

afaics - off the top of my head - the 256 smokers can be seen to contain 115 never smokers - so that is 141 extra dead because they smoked (possibly) .

and same with 166 former smokers = 166- 115 = 51 extra because they smoked (possibly).

So giving up looks good.

Is that a legit statistical conclusion?

Francis Xavier Holden said...

Like chris lloyd I woulda thought heart disease was higher

John Hasenkam said...

Perhaps the reason for the relative absence of heart disease in the smokers is because of the tremendous strides in addressing CHD over the last 30 years, whereas there has been effectively no progress in treating lung cancer.

Smokers also need to increase their antioxidant intake because smoking is markedly depletes our innate antioxidant defences.

Smokers, and probably everyone else, should avoid supplements containing beta carotene, studies indicate it increases the risk for lung cancer in smokers and recently someone informed me this is also true of non-smokers.

John P. Murtha said...

I think all who smokes know that smoking decreases their life span? If you want to live long life with your loved ones then quit smoking with the help of chantix . Your health problems or immature death due to smoking can put your family and loved ones in endless suffering which few of the smokers thinks over it. http://www.chantixhome.com/

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