Why do some people who smoke live longer than others?

Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
There are always a few die-hards who smoke a pack a day from age eighteen and live to be ninety. That's because a very few people are physiologically less susceptible to the arterial aging and carcinogenic effects of cigarette smoke than the rest of us. These people have higher levels of specific enzymes that activate the carcinogens contained in smoke. Nitrosamines, by-products of cigarette smoking, interact with the body's own enzymes to create a new chemical that is highly inflammatory and highly carcinogenic, or damaging to deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). Some people have much more or much less of the human acetylator enzyme that helps the body remove certain carcinogens from the body. The people who produce less of this enzyme than others, called "slow acetylators," are predisposed to breast cancer, as well as other kinds of cancer.

Don't assume you're one of the rare people who have better genes for preventing inflammation and for fighting cancer. The ingestion of any tobacco products, whether through smoking, chewing, or inhaling secondhand smoke, increases aging of the immune system (and arteries). The single best way to safeguard yourself against the carcinogenic effects of tobacco is not to use it at all.
The RealAge Makeover: Take Years off Your Looks and Add Them to Your Life

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The RealAge Makeover: Take Years off Your Looks and Add Them to Your Life

Why not live at 60 feeling like you did at 35?Thousands of Americans are younger today than they were five years ago. How is that possible? By following the specific recommendations that reverse...

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Quit Smoking

Quit Smoking

Smoking tobacco products can lead to severe health problems and even death. While quitting smoking can be very difficult for some smokers, there are smoking cessation programs and medications that can help smokers quit. There are ...

many lifelong benefits of doing so, like increased lung function and decreased risk of heart disease and cancer. Understanding the importance of quitting smoking and all options available to help stop smoking is key to long-term success.

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.