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A total of 6194 female doctors who in 1951 replied to a questionnaire about their smoking habits were followed up prospectively for 22 years. During that time 1094 died. Ischaemic heart disease, lung cancer, and chronic obstructive lung disease were all significantly (p < 0.001) related to smoking, though the absolute excess risks were lower than in male doctors smoking equivalent amounts. Female smokers born before the first world war were less likely to describe themselves as inhalers or as having started to smoke while young than were female smokers who were born later. In these respects this younger group resembled male smokers, and as they move into their 60s and 70s their absolute risk of lung disease and relative risk of ischaemic heart disease will probably come to resemble the risks for men smoking the same numbers of cigarettes. These findings show only that cigarette smoking causes lung cancer, chronic obstructive lung disease, and heart disease in women as in men. Whether the proportional increase in mortality from these diseases is as great in women as in men might be estimated directly from new case-control studies on men and women born since 1920.

Original publication




Journal article


Br Med J

Publication Date





967 - 971


Adult, Age Factors, Aged, Coronary Disease, Female, Follow-Up Studies, Humans, Lung Diseases, Obstructive, Lung Neoplasms, Male, Middle Aged, Physicians, Women, Prospective Studies, Risk, Sex Factors, Smoking, United Kingdom