Tue, Oct 21, 2003 - Page 4 News List

Better to quit smoking sooner than later, doctor says

By Joy Su  /  STAFF REPORTER

Doctors have urged those who plan to quit smoking to do it before the age of 35.

"Smoking will gradually deteriorate your body, and it takes a period of at least 15 years for your body to recover. By the time smokers hit the age of 35, the benefits of quitting are drastically diminished because it is hard to recover from the damage that smoking has already done," said Dr Wu Deng-chiang (吳登強) of Kaohsiung Medical University Hospital.

Wu was quick to add that the findings did not mean that it was too late to quit after the age of 35, but merely that it was best to quit before 35.

Reporting the results of his research to the National Health Research Institute, Wu also expressed that the earlier one begins smoking, the higher the likelihood of eventually contracting cancer. That's mainly because studies showed that the earlier one starts, the longer one will smoke, Wu said

Furthermore, while most people understand that lung cancer and oral cancer can result from smoking they are unaware of other risks that smoking entails, Wu said.

"Even 15 years after they quit smoking, they are still in a high-risk group for esophageal, pancreatic, gastric, liver, colon and rectum cancer. My research shows that smoking directly causes these types of cancer," Wu said.

Wu's research indicates that smokers are 2.4 times more likely to get esophageal cancer than non-smokers, 1.6 times more likely to get pancreatic cancer, and 2.5 times more likely to get liver cancer.

In Taiwan, the incidence of esophageal cancer is gradually increasing. Records from 2001 show a 7.41 percent increase from the previous year.

Esophageal cancer was also identified as one of the 10 most common forms of cancer in Taiwan in recent years.

According to Wu, records show that there is a higher incidence of esophageal cancer in men. However, he points out that it is important to account for the fact that in Taiwan, more men than women chew betel nut.

While 16.4 percent of middle- and high-school male students regularly chew betel nut, the corresponding figure for women is only 1.2 percent, according to research recently completed by Department of Health's Bureau of Health Promotion.

The bureau's studies also showed that cancer is 18 times more likely in smokers, but 89 times more likely for those who smoke and chew betel nut. Those who only chew betel nut are 28 times more likely to be diagnosed with cancer than those who don't chew.

Wu stressed that eating raw vegetables, garlic and onions are useful in preventing the onset of esophageal cancer -- as is, apparently, taking aspirin.

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