British scientist who discovered link with smoking and cancer, dies at 92

The British scientist Sir Richard Doll, who was the first scientist to expose the link between smoking and lung cancer, has died in hospital, after a short illness; he was 92.

According to Oxford University, Doll gave up smoking after his groundbreaking work in the late 1940s.

John Hood, the university's vice-chancellor, says that Doll's research has saved many millions of lives, and it is due to his pioneering epidemiological work that the dramatic reduction in smoking rates in Britain over the past 50 years have been achieved.

It was Doll, one of the world's most renowned epidemiologists, who warned in a 1950 study, co-written with Sir Austin Bradford Hill, that smoking was a major cause of lung cancer.

Their early study results showed that smokers were much more likely to die of lung cancer than non-smokers, while longer-term results linked cigarettes to heart disease and other illnesses.

Doll himself gave up smoking two-thirds of the way through the study.

It took some time, but the British people began to follow his lead, and while in 1954, 80 per cent of British adults smoked, government figures today show that only a quarter now smoke.

Doll was not beyond causing controversy however, and in 2001 he said in a BBC radio interview that "the effects of other people smoking in my presence is so small it doesn't worry me".

He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 1971 and received a string of international prizes, including the United Nations award for cancer research in 1962.

On hearing of the death of Professor Sir Richard Doll, the Medical Research Council (MRC) Chief Executive, Professor Colin Blakemore said:

"We have lost a great scientific mind. Professor Sir Richard Doll was one of the most important medical scientists of the 20th century. His proof of the link between smoking and cancer has done as much to save lives as the discovery of penicillin or the development of polio vaccine. The profound implications for health policy resonate to this day.

"He will be greatly missed by his colleagues at Oxford and all around the world, for whom he was an inspiring leader and a wonderful friend".



The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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