Perceived Risks of Heart Disease and Cancer Among Cigarette Smokers Cigarette smoking causes more preventable deaths from cancer than any other modifiable risk factor. Smokers who stop smoking increase the length of their lives substantially and reduce their risk of heart attack and cancer. However, many smokers still discount the increased risk they fact with continuing smoking. They are discounting their physician's advice by being too optimistic that their chances of getting a life-threatening disease will be nil. There was a survey in 1995 of a probability sample of U. S.

households to analyze smokers' perceptions of their relative risk of experiencing a myocardial infarction (heart attack) and cancer in a nationally representative survey. Doctors Aya nian (Brigham and Women's Hospital, Department of Medicine) and Cleary (Harvard Medical School, Boston, Mass. Conducted the survey. There were 3, 031 adults aged 25 through 72 years, including 737 current smokers (24. 3%) that took part in this survey. The eligible people had to fill out a subsequent written questionnaire and a telephone interview.

There were 3, 487 eligible people but only 3, 031 participated (70%) in the survey. The people surveyed had no history of myocardial infarction (heart attack) (96. 2%) or cancer (92. 9%). The participants were asked if they are a regular smoker; and if they are, what is the largest amount consumed by them ever in one day. The people with no history of heart attached (myocardial infarction) or cancer were asked, " ' Do you think your risk of heart attack (or cancer) is higher, lower or about the same as other (men / women ) your age?' " Of the 3, 031 participants, 737 (24.

3%) were current smokers and 868 (28. 6%) were former smokers. The current smokers were younger and had a higher number of women than the former smoker group. This was the same with the men in the current smoker group, they were younger and had a higher number of men than the former smoker group. The people who smoked in the survey were less likely to be married. They were also less likely to have graduated from high school than former smokers or non-smokers.

The current smokers did not attend a regular check up with a doctor despite being in worse mental and physical health than a regular person. They also said that they had less control over their lives and less satisfaction with life than former smokers or non-smokers. Among the current smokers, the findings concluded that less than half of them felt that they were at an increased personal risk of heart disease (29%) or cancer (40%). Among the smokers who had other medical problems such as family history of heart attack, or cancer, less than half of them felt that their risk of heart attack (39%) and cancer was higher than average. Smokers older than 64 years old were less likely than younger smokers to feel that their chances of having a heart attack was higher than average.

Smokers 44 years old and older, and those who had not graduated high school, felt that there was not an increased risk of cancer than the younger smokers and college graduates. Even when people try to educate smokers about all the risks of smoking, it does not work. With the lack of education about smoking, people get hooked before they ever knew it was bad for them. They do not feel they are at a greater risk of experiencing a heart attack or developing cancer than a non-smoker. Most common smokers do not feel they are at any more of a risk to get a heart attack or cancer when they smoke. Smoking is still the most important preventable cause of heart attack and cancer in the United States.

Doctors should try to identify and educate their patients to the potential health risks of smoking as much as possible to stop all of these preventable deaths.