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Question: I started smoking when I was 12 years old and quit when I was 26 and have not smoked since. I am now 51.

My daughter was saying that the damage I did to myself by smoking for 14 years is permanent and the damage is continuous because of the damage done to my lungs clearance system.

That is my lungs are just getting blacker and blacker. I found this to be a very disturbing and wonder how true it is.

I have not noticed any problems with my breathing. I am in excellent health and exercise regularly and vigorously.


Answer: Dear Katy,

There are a lot of scientific opinion about the subject.

After being smoke-free for 10 months, lung function improves dramatically.

Much of the congestion from your lungs should be gone; the cilia have re-grown in the lungs, and your risk for bronchitis has decreased.

It is hard to predict how long it will take for your lungs to be "normal," but you have already benefited your respiratory tract immensely.

No matter how much you have smoked, you experience immediate benefits upon quitting.

While it is impossible to guarantee that you have not done permanent damage, you were young enough to make a huge difference by quitting.

If you stay quit for 15 years, some studies suggest that your risk for lung cancer is reduced to almost the same as someone who never smoked.

A new study explains why former smokers are still more prone to lung cancer than those who have never smoked. It found that smoking causes some permanent genetic damage.

Quitting still offers huge health benefits, researchers stressed, as the risk to former smokers is much lower than for current smokers.

Other studies have found that prior smokers are at higher risk of some diseases than never smokers.

The studies show that former smokers who had been abstinent for more than 15 years had an 80 to 90 percent reduction in risk of lung cancer compared to current smokers .

However, lung cancer risk remains higher than in the never smoker, even after prolonged periods of complete abstinence from smoking. It has been estimated that former smokers continue to have a 10 to 80 percent greater risk than nonsmokers .


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