Intended for healthcare professionals


New insights from the British doctors study

BMJ 2004; 328 doi: (Published 24 June 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;328:1507
  1. Meir Stampfer (, chair, department of epidemiology
  1. Harvard School of Public Health, 677 Huntington Avenue, Kresge Building, Room 904, Boston 02115 USA

    Risks for persistent smoking are substantially larger than previously suspected

    The cause of the sharp increase in lung cancer rates that began early in the last century was not well established until Richard Doll and colleagues presented the initial findings from the British doctors study exactly 50 years ago.1 That paper and the updates that followed provided irrefutable evidence showing the extraordinarily adverse health consequences of cigarette smoking. The current report represents far more than a celebratory milestone in public health.2

    With the extended follow up of the British doctors cohort, this new report provides critical new information and convincingly shows that the risks for persistent cigarette smoking are actually substantially larger than had previously been suspected. Indeed, this study shows that about half to two thirds of all persistent cigarette smokers will eventually be killed by their habit. This study shows that with successive age cohorts, reflecting earlier ages at initiation, the death …

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