Cancer risk increases with the number of cigarettes smoked per day, confirms study

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Today, in advance of World No Tobacco Day, The Daffodil Centre released an Australian first study, with findings showing tobacco smoking significantly increased the risk of 12 types of cancer and that 1-in-7 current smokers will get lung cancer in their lifetime.

Cancer risk increases with the number of cigarettes smoked per day, confirms study
Image Credit: The Daffodil Centre

The risk of cancer increased with the number of cigarettes smoked per day, and even 'light' smokers of 1-5 cigarettes per day had an almost 10-fold increased risk of lung cancer.

The findings were drawn from the Sax Institute’s 45 and Up Study, one of the largest ongoing longitudinal studies of health and ageing in the world, surveying more than 250,000 Australians.

Dr Marianne Weber, Senior Research Fellow at The Daffodil Centre said, “We know that smoking causes cancer. This new evidence reveals the extent of smoking related cancer risk in Australia, capturing the health effects of smoking for Australians born in the early part of the 20th century.”

“Some smokers are at the point where they are smoking a few cigarettes a day and don’t realize the cancer risks they are running. Cigarette smoke is directly coating their mouth, throat, oesophagus and lungs with 7000 chemicals, including 69 carcinogens, and the increase in cancer risk even with light smoking is dramatic.”

“The good news is that the risk of cancer was significantly reduced among participants who had quit smoking – and the younger they quit, the better. “These results demonstrate that quitting smoking is much more effective at reducing disease than 'cutting down' the number of cigarettes smoked, Dr Weber said”.

Globally, there is very little evidence on the impact of light smoking, and for Australia, this is the first large scale study to present estimates of smoking-related cancer risk. Study findings include:

  • Lung cancer risk increased by 7% with every cigarette per day
  • For current smokers, the lifetime risk of lung cancer ranged from 14% overall to 26% (1 in 4) for those who smoked more than 35 cigarettes per day, compared to 1% risk for never-smokers (1 in 100).
  • Tobacco smoking significantly increased risk for cancers of the lung, larynx, liver, oesophagus, bladder, pancreas, head and neck, stomach, colorectum, kidney, gallbladder, and cancers of unknown primary site.

Anita Dessaix, Chair, Public Health Committee, Cancer Council said, " Governments need to re-introduce hard-hitting mass media antismoking campaigns to reach Australia’s 2.5 million daily smokers."

It’s been over a decade since Australia had a national mass media anti-smoking campaign for the general population. We are calling on the Federal Government to run a hard-hitting anti-smoking mass media campaign for the general public within the next calendar year."

Anita Dessaix, Chair, Public Health Committee, Cancer Council

Smokers can access support through the Quitline on 13 78 48 or find more information on quitting at

Journal reference:

Weber, M. F., et al. (2021) Cancer incidence and cancer death in relation to tobacco smoking in a population-based Australian cohort study. International Journal of Cancer.


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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