`It`s never too late to quit smoking`

Chicago: Quitting smoking has benefits even if it happens later in life, claims a new study after finding a strong link between smoking cessation and reduced mortality among people aged 60 or older.

The study, a meta analysis of 17 studies that looked at the risk of all-cause mortality in smokers 60 or older, found smoking cessation was linked with a 28 per cent reduction in mortality risk and its benefits were evident in all age groups including those aged 80 years and older.

Smoking is a known risk factor for many chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease and cancer, however, the epidemiological evidence mostly relies on studies conducted among middle-aged adults, according to the study.

For the study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, researchers from the German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg identified 17 studies from seven countries that were published between 1987 and 2011.

The follow-up time of the studies ranged from 3 to 50 years and the size of the study populations ranged from 863 to 877,243 participants.

They found an 83 per cent increased relative mortality for current smokers and a 34 per cent increased relative mortality for former smokers compared with never smokers.

"In this review and meta-analysis on the association of smoking and all-cause mortality at older age, current and former smokers showed an approximately 2-fold and 1.3-fold risk for mortality, respectively," study author Carolin Gellert and her colleagues noted.

"This review and meta-analysis demonstrates that the relative risk for death notably decreases with time since smoking cessation even at older age."

In a commentary accompanying the German analysis, Dr Tai Hing Lam of the University of Hong Kong said the findings show one in two elderly smokers will be killed by tobacco.

"Most smokers grossly underestimate their own risks," he wrote. "Many older smokers disbelieve that they are too old to quit or too old to benefit from quitting."